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Mastering the art of slaying in your lane

Entrepreneurs can learn from the Chinese bamboo tree that takes five years to grow its root system underground, before suddenly shooting up almost overnight and growing by up to a metre in height per hour for a short while. "Most people don't realise all the nurturing and time that goes into what seems to be an 'overnight' success," says Andrew Maren, CEO and Founder of ProfitShare Partners – a fintech firm that provides funding for small businesses and has teamed up with the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA) to sponsor a new 10-part speaker series called Slaying In Your Lane.

Maren, one of the speakers in the monthly online series, uses the bamboo to illustrate that it often takes years of hard work and perseverance behind the scenes until a business experiences real growth. "Entrepreneurs can be pretty hard on themselves," he says. "They assume that other business owners have become successful overnight and ask: 'What am I doing wrong? Why am I not at that level yet?' But instead of beating yourself up, it's far more constructive to look at other people's success story, where they have come from and how long they have taken, to be more realistic when approaching your own journey."

Fireside chat

That's one of the reasons why the GIBS EDA came up with its monthly online speaker series, in which CEOs, funders, alumni, corporates, and entrepreneurs share their personal stories to reveal some diverse entrepreneurial routes to success. Each session consists of a 45-minute one-on-one interview - a conversational fireside chat that is free of charge and easy to access via social media platforms. The format is a meridian meet-up, starting at noon once a month from February until November 2022, streamed live via Zoom on the GIBS EDA Facebook page where it will remain available as a recording.

"Our speaker series is as much about inspiration as it is about aspiration," says Miranda Hosking, Managing Executive for Social Education at GIBS. "By featuring selected individual stories, we want to highlight the many different areas of entrepreneurship, to help new and existing entrepreneurs to get insights into novel and different ways of growing their businesses. This is important, especially given where we are right now, not yet post-Covid but with businesses still having to navigate the pandemic to ensure their survival."

"Initiatives like these shine the spotlight on local and relatable role models, as opposed to the Oprah Winfrey's or the Elon Musk's of the world," she says. We want to ensure that local entrepreneurs know that there are relevant, real, and relatable role models right here in South Africa with whom they can engage. Part of the objective of showcasing their stories is to bring people together and to network. Meanwhile, the thought leadership element allows our broader audience of entrepreneurs, policymakers, and other stakeholders to extract some valuable lessons, key insights, and best practices from the event series.

The title 'Slaying In Your Lane' is a wordplay that encourages entrepreneurs to take action and dominate the space in which they work, to experiment and venture out of their comfort zone. In short: to accomplish things by proverbially slaying the dragon.

Creative destruction

As Hosking explains, all this is rooted in creative destruction, a theoretical concept by the father of entrepreneurship, Joseph Schumpeter. "It’s about the entrepreneurial notions of breaking boundaries and boldly doing new things, inventing and innovating, coming up with new ideas and being creative," she says. The speaker series is therefore a key resource that helps encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship by offering free access to information to the public.

Audience engagement is specifically encouraged, with the last 15 minutes of each session set aside for a question-and-answer segment. The speaker line-up ties in loosely with the month in which a particular event is held. For example, the series was kicked off in February, the month that hosts the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, with Zandile Mkwanazi, the Chairwoman and founder of GirlCode, a non-profit organisation aimed at empowering girls and women through technology.

In March, in celebration of International Women’s Day, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women will talk about their HerVenture app, which offers essential training and business skills for female entrepreneurs. In June, known as environment month, the CEO and Founder of the Imbumba Foundation, Richard Mabaso, will speak about his journey that includes summiting Mount Kilimanjaro six times. The line-up will also feature the entrepreneurs behind Marble & Saint restaurant; youth-centred digital training initiative Digify Africa; the 19-year-old entrepreneur, blogger, and gaming enthusiast Tshepiso Malema; as well as Andrew Maren of ProfitShare Partners, who came on board as the #SlayingInYourLane sponsor.

Partnership role

Since access to financing remains a key challenge for small businesses, this sponsorship is a good fit. ‘It’s imperative that we highlight the various funding options that are available for entrepreneurs beyond retail banks and other traditional financial institutions,’ says Hosking. ‘While we are not a funding partner ourselves, we take our role as a convener or connector to other stakeholders in the ecosystem very seriously – something we’re hoping to reinforce through the speaker series and our partnership with ProfitShare Partners.’

The fintech firm recently secured R100-million from the SA SME Fund, radically accelerating the business. ‘The biggest win is being able to help more and more SMEs grow and become bankable,’ says Maren. ‘To date, we provided about R400 million in finance to SMEs that couldn't access traditional funding, which has stimulated over R1 billion worth of transactions in the market, created more than 1000 jobs and helped sustain and grow more than 100 small businesses.’

ProfitShare Partners fills the gap for SMEs that are unable to obtain bank finance because they don’t have years of bank statements or financials – yet how can they build a track record if traditional financiers refuse access to funding? To solve this dilemma, Maren’s clients don’t need any financial, security, or track record, but must have a valid purchase order or contract with a reputable corporate or government entity. "We are the pre-school of funding, a catalyst to help small businesses off the ground and become bankable," he says. "We only get paid when they get paid. We share in the profit and assist our clients in achieving financial sustainability until they either no longer require funding or qualify for traditional finance."

South Africa’s big banks are starting to understand the value of this service. Ultimately, this reflects the spirit of collaboration, rather than competition, that the GIBS EDA promotes through #SlayingInYourLane and other programmes and events – as a convening space for dialogue and debate that brings together the public and private sectors and civil society, not only by facilitating meaningful engagement but also by working towards a robust and productive entrepreneurship ecosystem.

ProfitShare Partners is an innovative short-term funding company that is disrupting the market and enabling growth for SMEs by bridging the gap between what traditional financial institutions offer and what government is driving for the sector. Their approach is to enable businesses, particularly SMMEs, by offering a solution that will assist them in delivering on their contracts by partnering on the deal and supporting the full project through to delivery. For more, click here: https://profitsharepartners.com/

Useful resources:
Gordon Institute of Business Science
Making an impact to significantly improve the competitive performance of individuals and organisation through business education to build our national competitiveness. GIBS is a leading business school in the heart of Sandton’s business hub, offering a wide range of executive and academic programmes.
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