25 July 2005
The Business Place, a walk-in business advice centre in downtown Johannesburg, has been so successful that the City and its partners have decided to create a satellite centre in Kliptown, Soweto.
The increasing number of Sowetans seeking advice from The Business Place has prompted the move.
Set up in 2001 as a public-private partnership, the Business Place offers aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs courses on basic life skills, starting a business, financial management and running and growing a business.
“We are a youth-friendly organisation dedicated to assisting small enterprise,” says Marcel Newsome, the business manager at the centre.
As part of its 2030 growth strategy, the City has committed itself to funding and assisting institutions that help upgrade the skills of aspirant entrepreneurs.
On average 200 clients a week visit The Business Place, though Newsome says numbers have recently reached 500 clients a week. About 65% of these are under the age of 35 and most live in Soweto or the inner city.
The organisation has a staff of 20, most having the title “navigator”. Instead of doing things for their clients, they use interactive methods to ensure there is a transfer of knowledge.
“The client has to be aware of what is going on,” Newsome says.
The organisation can also allocate vouchers on behalf of the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, a national government fund set up to help job creation and skills development for people between the ages of 18 and 35.
These can be used to get assistance from service providers in fields like business planning, branding, accounting services, information technology hardware and software, and business administration.
To help aspiring entrepreneurs further, banking group Investec has invited service providers to set up offices in the same building as the Business Place, so cutting out the cost of travel.
The Business Place regularly hosts members from firms and organisations like Ernst & Young, Webber Wentzel Bowens and the Gauteng Shared Services Centre to give entrepreneurs advice on legal and accounting matters, as well as help on the tendering process.
Networking sessions are held, where entrepreneurs in the same sector meet each month.
“After our exhibition at the Youth Day rally, there was a massive jump in numbers of clients coming for advice,” Newsome said. “Many find out about us through word of mouth.”
Depending on its budget, the City allocates R1.2-million towards funding The Business Place each year.
The Kliptown satellite centre will offer limited services. Clients who want help in the accounting and legal fields will be referred to the inner city centre.
To run it, the economic development unit has set aside R600 000 a year for the next three years. Investec has also agreed to help with funding.
There are similar centres in Cape Town; Phillipi, a township outside Cape Town; King William’s Town; St Lucia; and Gaborone in Botswana.
Source: City of Johannesburg