by Reece Ferndale

Incubators sculpt young minds

Cape Town hopes to unlock the hidden potential within its SMME sector

Cape Town hopes to unlock the hidden potential within its SMME sector
Incubators are crucial economic drivers

Joule City, a new incubator aimed at supporting up-and-coming creative minds, has just opened its doors in the heart of Cape Town’s central business district. 

Incubators are designed to support the successful development of entrepreneurs and start-up businesses through various support resources such as funding, office space and skills development, among other things. On average, 98.7% of businesses working with an incubator succeed and 87% are still in operation after five years.

“Incubators are crucial economic drivers. We need to find ways to make sure more entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed because they are the ones creating the jobs we so badly need. Some of the most successful business districts around the world can attribute an element of their success to creating and investing in incubators that ultimately contribute to national GDP (gross domestic product),” says Rob Kane, chairperson of the Central City Improvement District (CCID).

“We want to encourage more businesses in the Cape Town CBD to support their local incubators or help create one. The American economy was created on the bedrock of entrepreneurialism. Let’s create more incubators and allow these budding entrepreneurs to unlock their potential and help the CBD's creative sector to commercially compete with global art, design and culture creative capitals such as New York, London and Paris.

"Cape Town is home to many small creative businesses that can thrive and grow when they’re co-located and collaborate with others in incubator spaces,” adds Kane.

In recognition of the important role these organisations play in sustainable job creation, last year the department of trade and industry revealed an ambitious 10-year incubation support programme with the objective of establishing 250 incubators throughout South Africa by 2015.

Kane says, “Another vital role business incubators play is bridging the gap for university students who have finished their studies with plenty of theory behind them, but not enough practical experience and resources to survive and succeed in the working world.”

This is a particular challenge for emerging, independent professional artists across the sector, who have great talent but often have little knowledge of running a business and therefore struggle to translate their craft into sustainable businesses.

This is the gap that the Joule City Arts Incubator will be filling. Joule City’s implementation strategies are founded on the core principal of relationships between artistic practice and the growth and development of the creative economy.

Director of Resonance Bazar (a Section 21 non-profit company), Julia Raynham, who heads up this incubator, says: “Joule City offers multipurpose premises for interdisciplinary meeting points, artistic experimentation, exploration and creative incubation including skills development in business entrepreneurship and technology platforms; training in arts administration; and new content production. Joule City engages in research necessary to facilitate market access and the development of digital distribution networks, in order to unlock new opportunities for professional artists in the knowledge economy.

“Joule City’s Incubator is designed to assist young arts professionals working in the creative industries, to transition into the business world and to help them make their talents and studies commercially viable.”

The Incubator is running a six-month intensive graduate development programme between March and August 2013. It will host 21 tertiary educated individuals who will receive dedicated skills training covering five modules during the duration of the programme. Once the programme is complete, these individuals will have their own website, social media platforms, and the necessary skills, networks and entrepreneurial business acumen to venture on their own.

Joule City Arts Incubator’s primary funder is the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority.

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