(…And how to make it work for you!)
With many South Africans feeling defeated in the face of both economic stagnation and political volatility, it is no surprise that many entrepreneurs are left feeling unhopeful. When the country is struggling to keep the lights on, what possible opportunities and optimism could there be for start-ups and growth-hungry entrepreneurs?
According to the recent AlphaCode Incubate panel of fintech leaders, with high achieving businesses in South Africa and globally, there is, in fact, massive opportunity in the local market – but it depends on how you approach the formidable challenge of building a business. Are you in it for the long haul?
Barry Swartzberg, CEO, Vitality Group, highlighted that the local market is in fact more receptive to new ideas’ than many other countries in which he has worked.
“I think it’s a lot easier to start up a business here than elsewhere,” he notes. “In SA, people go for new ideas, and in many ways there is more ‘open space’ here for entrepreneurs and innovative thinking. Elsewhere, it is difficult to find the gaps in the market.”
Schalk Nolte, CEO, Entersekt echoed this sentiment – underscoring that in South Africa ‘there are lots of problems to be solved which in itself, represents opportunity.’
In his view, the major challenge often comes down the line when SA businesses look to scale beyond borders.
According to Cameron Stevens, CEO, Prodigy Finance, the major benefit to being an entrepreneur in South Africa is that people are accustomed to ‘thinking and working outside of the rules.’ This lends itself to a different and often more dynamic approach to problem solving – which is arguably the major task of the entrepreneur.
“I am highly optimistic about South Africa,” he adds. “As an entrepreneur, I would add that access to funding at all stages is a serious weakness locally.”
So, what does it take to crack it?
Given that there is so much opportunity, what should aspiring entrepreneurs expect from the journey – and what does it take to succeed?
Swartzberg of Vitality Group emphasizes the importance of resilience and strong ethics:
“It takes a long time to build a business. I’ve never heard of or seen ‘easy money,’” he says. “For me, it’s about ethics and doing it the right way. You need to run the business 100% ethically.”
For Stevens of Prodigy Finance, the ability to learn and implement lessons ‘on the go’ is critical.
“In some instances, your core principles should always remain – while other things should not be fixed,” he explained. “It’s the combination of stubbornness versus the learning curve…and implementing learnings as fast as you can.”
Notably, he took on a business coach to help him navigate this curve, and he recommends that entrepreneurs always seek a coach or mentor of some kind.
“You can’t do this on your own,” agrees Swartzberg. “I have always learned from people with many, many years of experience. Mentorship is key.”
When taking into account the fast paced, high-pressure life that every entrepreneur signs up for, having the right support base is critical.
For South African financial services entrepreneurs beginning their journey, there can be no doubt that challenges and roadblocks lie ahead. Yet for those who have vision, persistence and purpose, the local market offers a treasure trove of opportunity