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Small businesses becoming a top SA career choice

| Economic factors

Since 1994 small business activity in SA has grown in line with the country’s GDP, which almost tripled from $143.8bn in 1996 to $404.3bn in 2011.

For small businesses, the gains have been all the more impressive given that, before democracy, myriad of restrictions, laws and by-laws prevented black entrepreneurs from entering the business world.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2014 SA report says while in 2001 19.7% of the adult population saw opportunities to start a business in SA, this figure has since increased to 37% in 2014.

Christo Botes, spokesperson for the 2015 Sanlam and Business Partners entrepreneur of the year competition, says more entrepreneurs are entering the market compared to 10 years ago.

"The entrepreneurial spirit is on the rise due to positive shifts in societal attitudes. This has resulted in an increasing number of South African adults viewing it as a career choice." Business Engine MD Muriel Chinoda believes there has been a "total shift" in attitudes towards entrepreneurship. With the scarcity of formal jobs and persistently low global economic growth, more people are looking to establish their own businesses rather than pursue a formal career.

"There are a number of people who, after being in formal employment and acquiring some much needed experience, realise that owning and running their own businesses is a better choice. So the realisation is there and I think there is much greater acceptance of entrepreneurship as a lifestyle choice," she says.

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THE tough economic times are creating opportunities for small businesses which are nimble and on their game, Ms Chinoda adds. "There is no time for time-consuming bureaucracy and the waste that is characteristic of big businesses. So for the entrepreneur who finds a niche, produces a great product or delivers a great service, the opportunities are plenty."

Nedbank economist Busi Radebe says despite the perception that access to finance remains a problem, she believes that the banks are open to lending to small and medium-sized enterprises.

The latest quarterly results of the Nedbank Small Business index recorded an improvement in the ease of obtaining finance from 4.1 to 4.9 — a record high since the index began.

"It is important to note that the bank’s appetite to lend is driven by customer demand and is governed by adherence to legislation such as the National Credit Act, which seeks to avoid reckless lending to consumers," Ms Radebe says.

The government maintains that small businesses and co-operatives are critical to defeating the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

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THE Department of Small Business Development’s Cornelius Monama says small businesses and co-operatives are expected to be central to SA’s job-creation efforts, in line with international trends.

"The National Development Plan states that about 90% of jobs will be created through small and expanding companies by 2030."

It is from the realisation of the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises that President Jacob Zuma established the Department of Small Business Development, Mr Monama says.

"Through this intervention, the government will be able to unlock economic opportunities and thus achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable employment, particularly for women, youth and people with people with disabilities," he adds.

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