WOMEN

Skilled for success

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Addressing the skills gap through women empowerment initiatives

More than 35 000 South African female entrepreneurs have to date benefitted from a unique partnership between the world’s largest beverage company and UN Women (the United Nations’ organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women) and Hand in Hand (an NGO with the vision of reducing poverty through job creation). Coca-Cola South Africa aims, via its 5by20 programme, to address the skills gap facing women in the small retail industry in South Africa, thus advancing women’s economic empowerment by providing female entrepreneurs with training in business skills, leadership training, mentoring and peer networking skills.

The programme is part of Coca-Cola’s global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of five million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020.

According to Vukani Magubane, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, Coca-Cola South Africa, the company partnered with UN Women and Hand in Hand to identify and address barriers facing women entrepreneurs in Coca-Cola’s supply chain in 2013.

“The initiative provides women with business skills, leadership training, mentoring, peer networking skills and access to financial assets. With the support of Hand in Hand, the programme initially aimed to train a total of 25 000 women entrepreneurs, many of whom are running small retail businesses within the Coca-Cola value chain.”

The programme, which was piloted in Gauteng, is on a three year roll-out plan and by the end of this year will see the continuation of training women in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. In addition to this, Coca-Cola South Africa and UN Women are working towards expanding the 5by20 training programme to Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

Magubane says they are already seeing tangible results in the areas in which the programme has been implemented.

“On average, a women’s income increases three-fold after being on the program for one year. We know that there is a skills shortage among these women in terms of how to run a small business.

“But if we help to address this skills gap, there a positive ripple effect on the community and future generations. Research shows that a woman’s income can immensely benefit children’s education and other family needs.

“Initial results indicate that the training has already begun to stimulate business growth, and many participants are now able to make better informed decisions about their businesses, which are positively impacting their families and communities.

“Women form the backbone of families and communities, particularly in the developing world. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that investing in women’s business success positively impacts local economies, child survival, welfare and education by providing the women in the programme with the business skills required to run a successful business. The women are able to provide for their families and communities while creating employment,” says Magubane.

A number of the programme candidates are today success stories of which Magubane is very proud. One particular woman she says stands out, is Katlehong business woman widow and mother Nonhlanhla Mabe, who now owns a successful micro-business in Katlehong called the Malang Tuck Shop. The shop sells daily consumable and household goods.

Talking to Achiever about the biggest challenges in South Africa when it comes to addressing gender equality and skills development, and how Coca-Cola South Africa’s 5by20 programme will play a role in alleviating the plight of women in the small retail industry, Magubane says the biggest issue South Africa is facing in addressing gender equality and skills development is that many female micro entrepreneurs do not have the relevant business skills training that would help sustain or elevate the businesses growth.

“Women in South Africa, one of the aspects of the 5by20 programme, is to alleviate the plight of women in the small retail industry by providing them with skills that will help them manage, market and grow their business successfully. By learning stock and finance management, customer service and the many other skills the training provides, the women become able to improve their daily business practices in order to increase their profit.”

She says the greatest need among these women when it comes to running their SMMEs, is that of acquiring proper business skills. The majority of the women who participate in the programme run spaza shops and tuck shops born from the need to provide for their families. As necessity entrepreneurs, running a business often becomes a challenge because of the hurdles they have to overcome without the necessary skills.

Her advice to the private sector and Government interested in taking on similar initiatives is to form partnerships. She believes that this way, across the private sector and civil society organisations, greater results can be achieved. Coca-Cola South Africa calls this the golden triangle approach and is dedicated to contributing to thriving communities and helping the government reach its targets.

“We believe this programme will not only contribute to Government’s goal of empowering women, but also answers to the need for entrepreneurial skills in South Africa. We believe that by building solid partnerships such as with UN Women and Hand in Hand, with aligned goals and outcomes, we are able to make a greater impact in terms of closing the skills gap and building economically empowered and sustainable communities in South Africa,” Magubane told Achiever.

A great success story

While Nonhlanhla Mabe’s business is now growing and thriving, her journey has not always been easy. Mabe’s life suddenly changed in 2007 when she lost her husband who was the sole breadwinner in the family.

Faced with the daunting realisation that she no longer had an income and three young mouths to feed, she made a decision that would change her life.

Being a resourceful woman, Mabe used the money she received from her husband’s workplace to start the business. The idea for the tuck shop came about when she saw an opportunity to provide for a need in the community. There were no shops nearby and Mabe realised that catering for a necessity in the community could help her cater for her and her family’s needs.

Since inception the business has grown considerably and Mabe has a loyal customer base which she attributes to selling quality products but she has not been able to track the profitability of the business. The biggest challenge was the growing competition forcing her to lower her prices. Mabe refused to be pressured into selling cheaper products and decided what her business needed was more management skills to maintain a competitive edge. Like so many small business owners Mabe was not paying herself a salary, which resulted in her misusing her cash flow for personal expenses.

Mabe was on the Coca-Cola Shanduka database buying 25 cases a week, and this is how she became aware of the 5by20 programme. The business training comprised of daily record keeping, marketing, customer service, stock taking among other issues.

The training has enabled her to maintain business records, treat customer’s well, price her products in a way that enables her to attract customers and have more of a competitive edge. She now sells goods on credit and collects her money at the end of the month from her regular customers. She learnt that she has to listen to her customers’ requests and try accommodate them where possible. Mabe has put what she has learnt into practise and installed a Standard Bank pay point which has enabled her to attract more customers to the business.

Training has enabled her to save money so she can physically grow the structure of the business, install air conditioners, built a car port and most importantly, keep track of the finances of the business. She is now able to save for her daughter’s tertiary education and help out her extended family with their needs.

Mabe has seen the fruits of applying the business principles she has learnt and is already sharing these with her community. Mabe has mentored her cousin in this regard and has helped her start a business from scratch by providing capital and counsel in order to empower her to run the now fully operational and successful business.

Mabe says she has learnt that a business should be treated like a child. It needs to be nurtured for it to grow. With her new-found knowledge she plans to open up a supermarket in the future. A feat she knows will require a considerable amount of determination, patience and saving.

Maphefo Ntshupetsang

Another success story is that of fifty-one-year-old divorcee and mother of five, Maphefo Ntshupetsang, who struggled to make ends meet selling cold drinks, vegetables and snacks. While her business had potential, she lacked the enterprise management skills to grow the operation and make it more sustainable.

Ntshupetsang says she left school in Grade 12 when she got married and never got a job. “In 2011, I started my own little business to try and support my household of six, but I was always short of money.”

Determined to change her circumstances, Ntshupetsang registered for the training programme and learned how to keep daily records, understand her market, develop a business plan, market her product effectively and cost and price products accurately.

The knowledge Ntshupetsang gained on the programme helped her establish how much her enterprise was making on a daily basis, improve her marketing skills and develop strategies for reducing and managing her costs. Importantly, she learned how to separate enterprise finances from personal finances. She has subsequently begun to save money, which she intends to use to grow her business.

Ntshupetsang says attending the programme also taught her about the benefits of buying in bulk to save money.

“I now know that doing things alone in business does not pay. By interacting with other people, I got new ideas that were beneficial to my business.” Ntshupetsang now wants to expand her business by buying a place close to home from where she can sell her goods.

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