Interview with Koenie Slabbert, the Provincial Manager of Seda Limpopo. 

What is Seda Limpopo’s competitive advantage for your target market?

The scope of our work is non-financial support in all sectors through the entire business life-cycle (360-degrees).

Our competitive advantage is our ability to comprehensively diagnose businesses and ideas in order to provide holistic guidance towards sustainability and growth interventions in all stages of business, from informal, survivalist, micro, small to medium businesses. Secondly, to bring expertise through seasoned professionals to enterprises which, under normal circumstances, would not have afforded or realised the value thereof. Seda provides business development services to small and medium enterprises throughout the province, with a network of branch offices in all five districts of the province, in partnership with other role-players. We also implement programmes targeted at business development in areas prioritised by government.

In what ways does Seda Limpopo help clients with their specific business needs and objectives?

To assist our clients, we have created a number of key programmes that are tailored to guiding smaller businesses through their individual problem areas as well as giving them support for growth and advancement.

For instance, our Franchise Support Programme promotes franchising businesses to new and current entrepreneurs, offering them advice about potential franchisee and franchisor opportunities, while our Export Development Programme plays a key role in helping to develop export-ready small enterprises that are globally competetive and are thus able to grow local as well as international markets.

We have a Trade Fair Programme that forms part of a wider network, and this is aimed at helping local small and medium enterprises to participate in global trade.

Our Seda Technology Programme seeks to stimulate economic growth and development through facilitating technology transfer, in addition to increasing the access to and use of technologies, as well as offering technical support to small enterprises.

The Co-operatives and Community Public Private Partnerships (Co-ops and CPPP) Programme promotes the establishment and growth of viable, sustainable co-operatives and collectively owned enterprises, while the Women Owned Enterprise Development Programme plays a role in developing women-owned enterprises through a number of capacity-building programmes.

The EMPRETEC Programme promotes the use of entrepreneurial competences, while the BESD Programme’s approach utilises one-on-one coaching as an innovative methodology to facilitate and reinforce business skills transfer and developmental support to emerging entrepreneurs. The latter programme is conducted by formerly unemployed individuals and especially trained so-called Entrepreneurial Development Practitioners (EDPs).

What individuals or organisations should contact Seda Limpopo for assistance?

Seda is able to assist anyone with innovative ideas who wants to start a business in any sector. In particular we give preference to value-adding ventures (manufacturing and processing), as well as wholesalers and retailers who have the necessary market access that can enable them to take locally produced content nationally and/or internationally.

Agriculture and agro-processing are two other sectors on which we place a high priority.

Koenie Slabbert, Provincial Manager for Seda Limpopo

Having previously been the Chief Operations Officer of Seda’s Enterprise Development Division, Koenie’s previous work experience includes being responsible for implementing the South African government’s national manufacturing programme in Limpopo, as well as being the General Manager and an Industrial Advisor for Limac, assisting and developing small and medium enterprises in the manufacturing sector in Limpopo province.

What challenges do businesses in the province of Limpopo face?

The main challenge we have noticed is in terms of access to markets, as this is made more difficult as a result of competitiveness that arises due to the distance we are located away from major markets as well as suppliers. Raw material (input) and distribution costs greatly increase in comparison with businesses in the metros (closer to sources/markets).

Skills/knowledge management, especially in the agricultural sector: an example of this is land reform initiatives that have not gone to plan as well as skills transfers that just did not happen at the scale and/or pace originally envisaged.

Access to funding is a challenge as the requirements to qualify for funding are very tight, whether this be from DFIs or private banking.

What are the major opportunities in the province for SMMEs?
  • Exporting of primary produce
  • Value-adding through agro-processing initiatives
Any advice or insight for co-operatives operating (or looking to operate) in Limpopo?
  • That they should be run as a business and not as an NPO.
  • Keep your operation lean as large groups have too many dynamics to manage which can result in a lot of conflict.
  • When forming/establishing a co-operative, look to include value-adding members.
  • Secondary co-op formations can assist with high-level, focused negotiations with the market and suppliers, strengthening production capabilities through resource and experience sharing (bulk buying of inputs, etc).

The Co-operatives and CPPP Programme supports non-traditional organisational forms of business and focuses on creating opportunities in rural areas. Seda’s Co-operatives and Community Public Private Partnership Programme (Co-ops and CPPP) was formed at the end of 2008 and combines the previous Sector Development and Co-operatives Programme and the revived CPPP Programme.

The programme supports non-traditional enterprise organisational forms with a special focus on rural areas and uses of local resources. By creating the programme, Seda’s ability to satisfy the needs of rural clients is enhanced.

The programme focuses on the following sectors:

  • Agri-business
  • Cultural tourism
  • Mining and mineral beneficiation
  • Trading and auxiliary services

The vision was to provide leadership in the establishment in addition to growth of viable, sustainable co-operatives and collectively owned enterprises in various sectors, and to facilitate their successful participation in the economy.

Seda’s Purpose
  • Promote the establishment of co-operatives and collectively owned enterprises, in partnership with other stakeholders
  • Establish linkages with other government initiatives that support co-operatives and collectively owned enterprises
  • Increase access by co-operatives and collectively owned enterprises to information, business skills and markets
  • Foster a culture of cooperation among co-operative beneficiaries
Seda’s Offerings
  • Development of a viable business plan
  • Development of marketing and feasibility studies
  • Due diligence
  • Capacity building
  • Facilitation of access to markets
  • Facilitation of access to finance
  • Promoting value additions
  • Ensure compliance to statutory requirements
  • Conduct market research
How has Seda Limpopo made it easier for SMMEs to utilise your services?

SMMEs have ready access to our services through our BESD Programme as well as our many satellite offices. We have also taken the innovative step of deciding that all of our Business Advisors (BAs) are certified on the Growth Wheel International, as this will ensure that Business Advisors will not just be comparing themselves with Business Advisors internationally but they will also be able to interact and link with the best Business Advisors in the world, who are certified users of the tool.

One of the most important aspects of the Growth Wheel is the 360-degree screening, as this helps our Advisors to quickly create an overview of all the challenges that might be relevant to the entrepreneur in question. The Advisor and the entrepreneur will be able to draw up a visual profile of how the business is doing, and this will assist them in identifying future growth opportunities and obstacles.

The framework will be able to assist the parties to ascertain where they are in terms of their business development and provide a roadmap for where they could be going. The Advisor and the entrepreneur will be able to create a common language and offer ideas for new directions. This process will inspire entrepreneurs to set their agenda in terms of which decisions to make.

The worksheets will help them to make decisions faster because they contain graphic checklists to quickly understand alternative options so they can get ideas for new ones. The 30 – 60 – 90 day plan is the tool that is ideal for entrepreneurs to keep track of their decisions and actions. It will also help the BA to keep track of actions that the entrepreneur had to undertake. The entrepreneur will then be able to focus on getting things done and who should do it.

Can you share some examples of successful SMMEs that Seda Limpopo has helped over the past few years?

The greatest impact we have had has been in terms of increased turnover and net profit. We don’t aim to make an impression in terms of employment opportunities, as most businesses always target minimum labour in order to reduce production costs and increase efficiency.

Companies we have had particular success with include PCS (Polokwane Chemical Supplies), Goodlife, Rosika Trading, Tshedza Concrete Art, Sasekisani Co-operative, Mofamadi Bed and Breakfast, TKY Trading, Mogalaletsi Trading, Twins Trailers, Limpopo Ceramics, Pavecon, Bellstein Trading and Are Hudisaneng Agricultural Primary Co-operative.

What message would you like to send to more established businesses and investors in terms of how they can help to support SMMEs and what the long-term benefits of offering such support are for the regional and national economy?

It is very important to assist SMMEs where possible by providing access to markets. I would also recommend that it can be wise to invest in SMMEs as innovation usually forms the basis of their business. It is also a good idea to partner with Seda for development of our current BEE suppliers.

Seda, in collaboration with the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), has embarked on the Gazelles Programme, which seeks to change the landscape in the SMME sector of South Africa. Gazelles are found in all sectors of the economy and a common characteristic is that they are usually fast-growing entities. This growth occurs at a specific phase in a businesses development, after which they revert to the industry norm in terms of their continued growth, although this does not preclude the possibility of future fast growth.

While these fast-growing companies are known as Gazelles, researchers also identified the “elephants” which are the big and ponderous companies that do not necessarily employ much (if any) staff. Lastly, researchers also speak of “mice”, which are the small and micro companies that will either not grow or whose owner-managers are not necessarily growth driven. For the purpose of this programme, South African “Gazelles” will be formal entities that grow exponentially and have an annual turnover of at least R1-million and are subject to definitions in terms of the Small Business Act of 1995 as amended.

Contact the Small Enterprise Development Agency