South African’s have a demonstrated history for innovation, from tech start-ups going global to successful township and rural economy entrepreneurs. Most innovative ideas, however, never take off as small businesses simply don’t have the resources or market access to launch their ideas. To bypass these barriers to entry, many entrepreneurs are now accessing Business Accelerators to unlock potential and access an effective springboard for growth.
Paige Sherriff, the Project Manager for the eThekwini Furniture Cluster (EFC) says that business accelerators are programmes that connect SMEs to the information and support they need to help them accelerate towards business success. Recognising the impact this can have in the local furniture industries, the EFC recently launched its inaugural Business Accelerator Programme.
“By connecting high-potential furniture manufacturing businesses in KZN with large South African based companies, the EFC Business Accelerator aims to drive effective growth through market access interventions, standards upgrading, capital investment and support,” Paige explains.
Paige says that the EFC Business Accelerator closely follows tried and tested international accelerator models as well as the highly successful Durban Chemical Cluster Business Accelerator. “Accelerator programmes are gaining in popularity across multiple manufacturing sectors as they are effective in achieving permanent results and true change for both industries and SMEs,” she adds.
So, if you are an SME, here are Paige’s top five reasons why you should join an accelerator:
- Speed and momentum
An accelerator can work for SMEs in all phases of their growth. You may have encountered an issue or reached a growth plateau but an accelerator programme will encourage you to think bigger. It can be that personal trainer that kicks you to the next level that you couldn’t figure out on your own. Using the accelerator and the expertise within it, SME’s can access an intensive, targeted framework that can help speed them towards a contract, partnership, POC or investment.
- Making connections
One of the most important benefits offered by a business accelerator is the connections and contacts that are made during the programme. The participants are like-minded people looking to improve their company’s growth potential. This fosters a great environment to get customers, meet your competition, build better supplier relationships or even find new business partners. You may even connect with potential customers years before your procurement team would otherwise come across them.
- In-depth analysis of customer needs
For SME’s, knowing the needs and specific requirements of customers is not always readily apparent. In a business accelerator, customers speak directly to the participants about their specific needs and explain exactly what they’re looking for. It presents the perfect opportunity for participating companies to deliver their proposals to these same clients, potentially opening the doors to doing business and closing deals.
- An ecosystem of support
Business accelerators usually come with support systems such as mentorship from business experts. Generally offered as part of the package, these are designed with a focus on a particular industry and provide quick access to key industry advisors who understand the unique challenges facing the industry and/or geography. This concentrated form of information allows you to speed up your business development. Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can leverage their years of accumulated wisdom to grow your business in a more calculated, strategic way.
- Building a network
Just because the accelerator programme ends doesn’t mean the support runs dry. Long-term relationships develop at business accelerators. Plus, the alumni network is always there to tap into – to inquire about talent, seek investors or get feedback – as you continue with your business growth or take on any other projects in the future.
“Participating in a business accelerator translates directly into value for any company that wants to unlock its growth potential. They can play a vital role in shaping and fueling business growth, offering a menu of invaluable and ongoing resources to participants,” Paige concludes.
- For more information on the EFC Business Accelerator, visit www.furniturecluster.org.za/the-business-accelerator/.