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Brand South Africa empowers SMMEs through Play Your Part Ignite

Small businesses are essential to the well-being of the South African economy, employing between 50 and 60 percent of the country (Kalidas et al, 2020). In an economy where small to medium-sized enterprises are a key economic driving force, potential business ideas need to be nurtured into functioning and sustainable long-term businesses. As the growth in the number of SMEs in the last ten years has been slower than the country’s economic growth (OECD, 2022), it is imperative that we continue to provide aspiring business owners with the tools to survive in an ever-changing economic landscape.

Since its inception, the Play Your Part Ignite campaign aims to fuel the entrepreneurial spirit within aspiring business owners and guide them with the instruments needed for their businesses and ideas to thrive. The campaign, which launched in July 2022, assists with fine tuning existing and new business ideas, providing participants with resources to pitch their ideas effectively.

The campaign is specifically focused on assisting participants with constructing a short, succinct and punchy elevator pitch. As often happens, entrepreneurs are not always given the opportunity to present their businesses in a boardroom to a table of investors – but if they can hone their pitching skills to provoke excitement from one potential investor they serendipitously bump into, they can potentially secure that seat at the table.

Each Ignite session kicks off with a masterclass, providing key guidance and incisive business acumen that aspiring entrepreneurs might not have access to, particularly outside of South Africa’s major cities. It also serves as an interactive platform for young people to get excited about being small business owners, building their confidence and assisting them in manifesting their business ideas into existence.

Ignite was first launched in Gauteng followed by Polokwane, Limpopo. An intimate session was recently held in Rustenburg, North-West and the activations concluded in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal in February.

The final leg of the Ignite campaign took place at the Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani Hotel in Durban, hosting the largest group of budding entrepreneurs thus far. It was presented by Play Your Part Ambassador and Founder of Famram Solutions and The Princess D Menstrual Cup, Shamila Ramjawan. Shamila’s experience provided much value to the activation, as she currently holds a position at LSI Business School in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, where she teaches elevator business pitches to MBA students.

Participants were then provided the opportunity to pitch to Ignite’s panel of judges, and with R25 000 in cash on offer, there was much competition. Sixty participants applied to pitch, with each contestant being vetted independently by on-the-ground facilitators. Eventually, all entrants were narrowed down to the top 20 candidates, who were then given the opportunity to pitch to the judging panel. The Durban session’s judges consisted of Programme Director of the International Youth Foundation, Khalil Patel; Play Your Part Ambassador and social entrepreneur, Paul Nzimande; and Toni Gumede, Manager: Office of the CEO at Brand South Africa.

The winner, Phumelela Mkhize, walked away with a whopping R12 000 to go towards his business idea, which resides in the sustainable energy space. He hopes to use his winnings towards creating a wind energy prototype. Second place was Yenziwe Shabalala, winning R8 000 towards her small business, which offers a specialised breakfast delivery service. Third place went to Larisse Naidoo, who walked away with R5000 which she aims to put towards her interactive maths tutoring service.

 In order to applaud all potential participants for their commitment to their businesses and ultimately the country’s economic health, the remaining fifty-seven individuals all walked away with R1 000 each towards their business ideas.

While the cash prizes are more ceremonial in function, rewarding entrepreneurs for their contribution to the country’s economy, the campaign’s long-term objective is to secure sustainable mentorship and funding for those who participated. Many of the business ideas presented would not have seen the light of day, if it were not for the activations, and with a network of high-profile potential investors and mentors behind the campaign facilitators and judging caucus, some participants have received external funding as a result of the campaign, and many more have received mentorship.

Play Your Part Ignite will wrap up in March with a conclusive webinar planned. The webinar aims to engender impactful discussions around the future of entrepreneurship in the country, while also catching up with the Ignite winners and runner ups, seeing where they are now with their businesses, and how the campaign has benefitted them.

OECD (2022), “South Africa”, in Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2022: An OECD Scoreboard, OECD Publishing, Paris

Kalidas S. et al (2020), “How South African SMEs can thrive post COVID-19”

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