Turbulence is the official climate of entrepreneurship. Chaos is the friend of the entrepreneur. Stability is the friend of the status quo. An entrepreneur’s competitive advantage lies in being nimble and adaptable.
This is according to Linda Rottenberg, Co-founder and CEO of Endeavor – a global organisation present in 35+ countries that works to catalyse long-term economic growth by selecting, mentoring, and accelerating the best high-impact entrepreneurs worldwide.
“Past crises like the 1987 stock market crash, the dot-com bubble burst of 2000 and the 2008 financial crisis, all saw entrepreneurs developing solutions to manage those troubling times, which have now become part of our everyday lives. Where would we be today without the likes of Instagram, WhatsApp, Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox, Zoom and Slack, which emerged in response to the 2008 crisis? In the current crisis, South African entrepreneurs are taking up this mantle and adapting their businesses in response, not only ensuring that their businesses remain sustainable, but helping others in the process – paying it forward and paving the path for a better tomorrow for many South Africans,” says Endeavor South Africa Chairman, Herman Bosman.
Enabling business continuity in crisis
Dov Girnun Thomas Pays
Empowering other businesses to continue trading during this time will no doubt aid South Africa’s ailing economy. Fintech entrepreneurs like Ozow are responding to the surge in demand for digital transactions, while small business funders such as Merchant Capital are ensuring that essential service providers including pharmacies, fuel stations, grocery stores and pet shops have sufficient working capital to keep up with increasing demand for stock and staff.
Thomas Pays, Co-Founder and CEO of Ozow, shares that the company is now enabling businesses to receive payments from customers via a variety of contactless technologies ranging from QR codes to SMS. Ozow is also working on a solution to enable those in townships and rural areas to transact without having to travel to their banks during the lockdown period. The company is also proactively supporting SMEs by offering 0% fee for all businesses with less than R1m worth of transactions per month. “Our approach is how can we adjust and answer the market need as it evolves through the quarantine on a month-to-month or even week-by-week basis.”
Merchant Capital Founder and CEO, Dov Girnun, says that in addition to a recalibration of focus on making sure that the company is supporting essential businesses, it has offered payment holidays on loan repayments to clients that have been deemed non-essential businesses. “Our company was established by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs and this principle has guided our business over the past seven years and will continue to guide us through the crisis.”
Adjusting to the new normal
Stacey Brewer Melvyn Lubega
A number of entrepreneurs are helping their clients and other stakeholders adjust to social distancing life, which some believe might need to continue until 2022. Online training providers like GO1 are seeing increased adoption as more companies move to remote workforces and need alternatives for upskilling and training staff. Entrepreneurs in the edtech space such as SPARK Schools are also ramping up their efforts to assist learners and parents during the crisis as their worlds too have been affected.
GO1 Director, Melvyn Lubega says that as lockdown has been extended for longer than the original 21-day period, many businesses are beginning to come to terms with the fact that this is the new way of working. “We have put together a COVID-19 response and remote training programme to help employees cope with the new normal. We wanted to make sure that we are adding value and want to be able to look back with pride in the future when asked ‘what did your organisation do to help during this time’.
As soon as it was announced that schools would be closing, SPARK Schools launched a home-learning online portal to provide parents with a daily schedule that focussed on healthy living and body movement, in addition to the academic side of learning. Now that the lockdown has been extended, the product offering will be evolving to include online videos and assessments for kids to do themselves, freeing up parents to focus on their work. Co-founder and CEO, Stacey Brewer, adds that SPARK Schools will be launching an education fund to support SPARK families affected by the crisis.
Entrepreneurs like SweepSouth are helping to drive the trend of social solidarity which is emerging as a consequence of the crisis. On the day the national lockdown was announced, the company implemented a new way of cancelling bookings for long-term subscription customers which would enable them to cancel their bookings but still allow them to help SweepStars earn a salary on a continuous basis. SweepSouth also put together a R12 million fund to cater for SweepStars’ basic necessities for the next three months. SweepSouth Co-founder and CEO, Aisha Pandor says: “ People will remember how you treated them, how you treated customers, and, in our case, how we treated our SweepStars during this time.”
“Endeavor was founded on the value proposition of being for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs and we select, mentor and accelerate the best high-impact entrepreneurs South Africa has to offer. These Endeavor Entrepreneurs are living out our core values, particularly that of paying-it-forward, as evidenced in the way they have responded to helping other businesses, their clients, staff and other stakeholders through this crisis. They are inspiring role models to the community and particularly up and coming entrepreneurs and play a key role in building the entrepreneur ecosystem. In doing so, they are shaping a positive post-crisis South Africa,” says Alison Collier, CEO of Endeavor SA.