The value of business incubators

To all existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, let me wish you a most prosperous, fulfilling and entrepreneurial 2019.

The statistics around small business failure are frightening. In a 10-year period, fewer than 10% of businesses started 10 years ago are still operational.

There are a multitude of reasons for this. From starting out of necessity, rather than opportunity, to little or no modelling at home and starting with no market in mind to name but three.

Yet a factor which can change the picture significantly, is that of support business incubators, which derive their name from incubators in hospitals and similarly in chicken farms. In both cases, these incubators are there for vulnerable living things at the very beginning of their journey.

Without the support of the incubator, high casualties will arise in these babies, both human and bird. In a similar way, business incubators can provide essential support for aspiring entrepreneurs at their most vulnerable stage – starting up.

Here is the story of a start-up that derived such benefit.

Paminus (Pam) Ndadzungira is a 33-year-old young man who owns and manages Classy Gates Engineering. He came up with the business idea late in 2014, registered late 2015 and began trading in 2016.

Classy Gates Engineering manufactures gates and fencing, palisade and bar fencing as well as installing automation systems.

He joined False Bay College’s Centre for Entrepreneurship’s (CFE) Rapid Incubator (RI) in March last year and has derived considerable benefit from the programme, facilities and use of the mini factories. He shares that his turnover in 2017 was approximately R400 000, but he has seen this nearly double in 2018. One of the projects that contributed to this growth was a fencing project, in excess of 60 metres, to be added to a low wall around a block of flats in Sea Point.

Pam was able to use the metal mini factory at the CFE/RI to help complete the entire project in just over four weeks. The homeowners association were so pleased with the result that they also gave an intercom project to Classy Gates Engineering. Pam reflected on some of the very real value he has derived from being on the programme as follows:

Access to facilities/ equipment

While Pam has a unit in a factory environment elsewhere, the cleanliness of the mini factory; access to a mig welder; stringent health and safety processes and the support of the resident CFE/RI technical manager, have proved invaluable. The incubator has also reduced inaccuracies and wastage through its processes.

Learning and coaching

Pam acknowledged a change in himself in areas like confidence, business insight and credibility.

These he reflects are as a result of the comprehensive learning programme of the CFE.

He now has proper business systems in place; a demonstrable and credible track record; proper financial controls and the support of a bookkeeper.

Entrepreneurial mindset

His confidence increased as a result of him believing in the value of his products and offering. Some entrepreneurs struggle to balance their work and home life but the “office” environment of the CFE also helps establish a healthy routine and habits.

The emphasis on professionalism in engagement with customers and clients in the CFE has rubbed off on Pam, and he echoes his gratefulness for this vital life lesson.

Pam gave these three nuggets of entrepreneurial advice for others wanting to start their own journey.

Believe in the value of the products and services you bring to the community. It’s a sales maxim that believing in the value of your product or service is essential. Logic dictates you should believe in what you sell. If you didn’t, sales would become a process of unethical manipulation.

Own the fact that you must develop a business mindset to be successful; it is not automatic. The commitment to growing an entrepreneurial mindset may be one of the most powerful and productive decisions you can make.

Be quick to establish key business processes, such as one’s financial system.

The CFE/RI will be hosting an information session in February for those keen to start their entrepreneurial journey with the support of an incubator. Those wanting to know more may contact 021 201 1215 for more information.

Steve Reid is the manager of the CFE at False Bay College. Entrepreneurs with creative ideas in manufacturing can also contact the CFE.

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