It seems the key to sparking economic growth and boosting job opportunities lies in the hard work required for the journey to entrepreneurship.
Thought leaders in the insurance and entrepreneurial space have been mulling over the critical issue of how to unlock job creation. Graduate Institute of Financial Services (GIFS) CEO Dr Kershen Pillay moderated a recent Insurance Institute of Gauteng (IIG) online thought leadership session with Thabo Twala, the President of the IIG, on hand for a word of welcome.
Twala acknowledged GIFS as a leader of insurance training, knowledge management and thought leadership. Hundreds of stakeholders logged in to be part of the session that saw polls conducted during the discourse.
The time allocation seemed too little considering the depth of the conversation between CEO of Ami Underwriting Managers for Constantia Insurance Christelle Coleman, and the CEO of global entrepreneurship and leadership development company, Vani Moodley of Vani Moodley and Associates.
Coleman shared her inspirational workplace journey that has seen her build three companies as a single entrepreneur who’s dedicated to sustainable job creation. She spoke candidly of coming from a background that didn’t prepare her for a journey to success.
Coleman proudly refers to herself as a hustler, rather than a traditional entrepreneur. Her candid words of inspiration resonated with the audience as she shared how she started her first business at the age of 25.
Twenty-five years later, she’s still firmly on the path to sustainable opportunities, saying she’s ‘no corporate animal,’ adding that ‘South Africa is a land of opportunities.
Refreshingly, Coleman painted a positive picture of entrepreneurship as a journey in South Africa, saying opportunities are more easily accessible here, compared to Europe in her experience, barring regulatory red tape. Coleman had sage words for corporate South Africa, saying there’s tremendous need to focus on educational opportunities towards starting a business.
She pointed out that many new players to entrepreneurship don’t have the answers to basic questions including: What are the challenges? Or how do you create networks in the insurance industry?
Importantly, she encouraged insurance brokers, pointing out that they are the original entrepreneurs, with many of them having started their work at home while serving clients. She’s hopeful there will be more structured mentorship programmes for aspiring entrepreneurs.
There was also staunch support for her suggestion for an ‘insurance shark tank’; a reference to the popular TV show where aspirant entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to potential investors.
Moodley agreed with Coleman’s words that small business development and support policies vary from country to country, pointing out though that the barriers to entry that Coleman referenced were common problems.
Audience members shared their belief that women face greater barriers than men, including the time it takes to start a business. Moodley shared her wisdom as a business coach, saying early entrepreneurs need to understand the road ahead will be challenging for at least five years. She added that there needs to be ‘hunger’ and commitment to entrepreneurship.
Moodley explained that it is difficult to raise startup capital but there are options that are not fully explored. She advised about angel investors. However, Moodley was careful to add the need for due diligence before embarking on the entrepreneurial journey. There needs to be a proper marketing plan, but the idea needs to be innovative and ideally not something that’s already saturated within the market.
Moodley offered an innovative suggestion of her own about adequate market research saying masters and doctoral students would be interested to assist as it’s a quid pro quo process; the students get an opportunity to do real-time research while the budding entrepreneur has ready knowledge prior to beginning the journey.
The audience poll revealed 96% of delegates believed entrepreneurship needs to be nurtured. Moodley offered another gem based on her experience, saying entrepreneurs need to know the prevailing financial and non-financial support that is offered.
She explained that the Small Enterprise Development Agency and the National Youth Development Agency offer technical knowledge. The Small Enterprise Financial Agency and the National Empowerment Fund offer financial support.
She added that understanding key priority sectors for the government will assist the process.
One of her examples that resonated with the audience was the need for greater development of the manufacturing sector. Granite is exported yet we have manufacturing capacity that is untapped in South Africa.
Coleman agreed that while the path will sometimes be rocky, her success has hinged on her tenacity, courage and self-belief. If nothing else, Coleman expanded on her ‘just get going’ philosophy. She said starting small is an option, including starting with a side hustle before you find firm footing as an entrepreneur.
Rounding off the session, Pillay admitted that there’s no silver bullet to the unemployment crisis although entrepreneurship is a feasible option. He rightly believes that heightened awareness of how to take the first step to the road to entrepreneurship will go some way in alleviating the challenge.