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Women entrepreneurs need more support Featured

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Women entrepreneurs need more support

According to Census 2011, 15% of South African households have female breadwinners, where a married woman is the head of the household. But as South Africa’s unemployment rate rises and it becomes increasingly harder to find permanent employment, more and more women are looking to entrepreneurial endeavours to help them support their families.


While the reasons for this are the same as for men, “Women,” says the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), “show marked differences from men in characteristics such as their attitudes about entrepreneurship, the industries they operate in, and their ambitions for growth.”


It also suggests that women may face a tougher battle than men though as “women entrepreneurs may not be sufficiently empowered or supported to allow them to contribute to new business start-ups.


“The reasons for this may include cultural and societal attitudes and access to resources and opportunities. Policies that can promote societal attitude changes, and train, support and encourage women entrepreneurs will promote inclusiveness and fuel economic growth.”


Annie McWalter, CEO of The Hope Factory believes that its approach of holistic and hands-on mentoring helps to provide some much needed support to the entrepreneurs on its programmes. She says, “All of our programmes include a large mentoring component where we walk the business journey with our entrepreneurs. Through this programme we assist each business owner with the issues that their particular business faces.


“To make it as an entrepreneur, you have to have passion, determination, and the necessary drive - the willingness to push through no matter what. This is what ultimately determines your success.”


Over the last 12 years The Hope Factory has had more than 1000 people attend various business and skills development programmes, with a major emphasis on starting and growing your own business – approximately 60% of these businesses are female-owned or run.


And, crucially The Hope Factory is helping to sustain these businesses past the three and a half year mark. Worryingly, according to GEM, only 2% of South African businesses manage this.


The Hope Factory’s successes include:

  • 48 new businesses were created and registered in 2012
  • 148 entrepreneurs participated in its Entrepreneur Support Programme in 2012
  • 86% of all these businesses now have a clear business strategy
  • 92% of the businesses in its incubator programme, The Hope Hub, experienced a significant growth in turnover and 64% experienced a growth in profit
  • 54% of general businesses on The Hope Factory Entrepreneur Support Programme increased their turnover
  • 95% of all the businesses on its programmes now implement accurate financial record keeping systems
  • 95% of all the businesses now adhere to a budget.

“Our experience has shown that mentorship is vital to grow small businesses and to help the entrepreneurs overcome challenges. We approach this from a personal, as well as a business and financial management development angle, as we believe that if you grow the person, you grow the business. This year our target is to equip and grow 190 businesses,” says McWalter.

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