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“It takes a community to build a business”

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August may be Women’s Month and the spotlight falls on the plight of women but it also serves as a time to highlight what women are doing for themselves.

Tsegofatso Chifokoyo, owner of Ishecorp (left), with a client, at the Reach One Teach One Centre. Picture: Supplied

THE MONTH of August is not only when South Africa shines a light on the plight of women but also focuses on how women have been able to improve their status in the country’s economy.

A woman-owned SMME, Ishecorp, in Barkly West, which is a beneficiary of Droogfontein Solar Power’s enterprise development programme, is helping other local businesses through its accounting services.

While Ishecorp’s first year of operations coincided with Covid-19, the young owner has not allowed this to deter her.

“It has been amazing and tough at the same time because of the global pandemic, but remarkable as the training and mentorship provided by Droogfontein’s programme has allowed my business to be taken more seriously, building my confidence when approaching potential clients. I have been equipped with the tools necessary to assist our local SMMEs, co-operatives and non-profit organisations to be sustainable,” said Tsegofatso Chifokoyo, owner of Ishecorp.

She added, in relation to the many women-owned businesses that she supports, “It is a relief and great privilege to help another woman, however, I can only make an impact in their lives if they are open to it. Some women first need to recognise the value and benefits of the business support in order to be sustainable and often can’t afford professional services.”

The business mentoring, support and funding that Droogfontein Solar Power’s programme has provided help to establish and fast track the sustainability of this SMME.

“It has been tremendous to have the support, as it contributes towards economic emancipation in rural communities. Often, women like me don’t have options or resources and as a result it takes years to get a business off the ground. This opportunity has proven that it takes a community to build a business; it is important to tap into mentors and experts when looking to make a real impact faster and ensure sustainability.”

The solar plant’s support of this local 100% black woman-owned enterprise is part of its youth economic development programme that is at the heart of its enterprise development strategy.

“The role of black-owned small enterprises, especially those that are owned and managed by youth, is an opportunity to support exponential growth and development,” Zuki Ndlela, economic development officer at Droogfontein Solar Power, pointed out.

SMMEs play a key role in rural South Africa as they are productive drivers of inclusive economic growth and development. According to the Department of Trade and Industry small businesses represent 98% of the total number of companies and employ over half of the country’s labour force.

The sector is so important that the Ministry for Small Business Development was set up some time ago, so that economic opportunities can be unlocked and thus achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable employment.

Droogfontein Solar Power’s Enterprise Development includes initiatives to assist and accelerate the sustainability of local enterprises by ploughing financial resources into the Kimberley, Riverton, Ritchie and Barkly West areas.