Speciality Township Economy Project

Published: FY2023

Empowering women entrepreneurs

In the heart of South Africa’s vibrant townships, a remarkable initiative is transforming the lives of local communities, brought to life through Pepkor Speciality’s Township Economy Project. This project empowers women entrepreneurs and nurtures the growth of township economies.

In 2019, South Africa’s Annual Financial Statistics survey highlighted the vital role played by small and medium-sized businesses, accounting for 22% and 10% respectively of the total turnover in South Africa’s formal business sector. Despite supportive legislation such as the National Small Enterprise Act No. 26 of 2023, these businesses need additional support, especially in townships.

Pepkor Speciality, a division of the Pepkor group, partnered with the Do More Foundation, known for supporting small businesses, to launch the Township Economy Project in Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal, and Rustenberg in the North West province.

This programme aims to facilitate the launch, growth, management and sustainability of small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. In this partnership, Pepkor Speciality contributes financial assistance, support and guidance in establishing effective structures and optimising workflows, all aimed at forging a robust foundation for the future growth of these budding enterprises.

Due to their strategic importance, Hammarsdale and Rustenberg were chosen as the launch sites. Hammarsdale houses Pepkor Speciality’s distribution centre, and Rustenberg aligns with the Do More Foundation’s research on communities in need of support.

For the 2022 launch cohort, the programme selected forty young women entrepreneurs under the age of 35 from diverse sectors, reflecting the dynamic township economy in both Rustenberg and Hammarsdale. The entrepreneurs from various industries, including ice-making, hairdressing, laundromats and indigenous chicken farming, brought their dreams to the table. Pepkor Speciality, with its brands targeting the young adult market, focused particularly on empowering women and youth.

The journey began with a 12-month programme, including six classroom sessions, at no cost to the entrepreneurs. Each received a travel allowance to ensure they could attend. In these classroom sessions, the women learnt the fundamentals of running a micro-business, from opening bank accounts to business registration, marketing strategies and financial management, focusing on how to record their sales and profits.

As the programme reached its climax, eight outstanding businesses were shortlisted for a Shark Tank-style selection process in Hammarsdale. The first day involved site visits where judges observed the businesses in action. On the second day, the entrepreneurs presented their business models, SWOT analyses, target markets, sales strategies and plans for sustainability.

One entrepreneur, a local egg seller, captured the hearts of the judges and secured a financial injection managed by Niya Consultancy, a Do More Foundation partner organisation, to help grow her business over the next year. She planned to build a Wendy house and invest in more chickens, ensuring the growth of her enterprise. The other seven businesses also received financial support from Pepkor Speciality.

The same Shark Tank-style initiative was also facilitated and launched with the Rustenberg cohort, and eight young entrepreneurs were observed by the judges and their businesses showcased. The winner in Rustenberg is a young entrepreneur who provides catering services to her community.

The impact of the Township Economy Project, especially in its successful implementation, extends far beyond the immediate entrepreneurial benefits. The ripple effect of empowering these 40 women entrepreneurs in Rustenberg and Hammarsdale is profound when considering their families and dependents. While 40 women are participating in the programme, they collectively support 56 dependents. This aspect brings a crucial dimension of social and economic upliftment to the project. In each community, 20 new brands have been created through these businesses.

The programme empowers women by providing skills and resources to expand their businesses, creating a ripple effect of support and stability. Women’s success in business improves family living conditions, education, and well-being, especially in communities reliant on single income sources. The resulting multiplier effect shows how focused economic efforts can transform communities, with these thriving businesses boosting employment, raising living standards, opening new opportunities, and fostering inclusive economic growth.