Women-led SMEs are one of the most underutilised resources in South Africa. Think about it. There are thousands and thousands of people out there who have amazing ideas, but whether due to lack of resources or opportunity, are never fully realised.
To give you a clearer picture, here are some stats collected by our friends at Heavy Chef:
- Less than 1 in 5 business owners in South Africa are women, despite women accounting for more than half of the country’s population
- According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), only 19.4% of South African business owners are women. This means we only rank in 45th in the world behind other African countries such as Uganda (39.6%), Botswana (38.5%), and Ghana (36.5)
At Job Crystal, a women-led SME with a majority female staff (including our Artificially Intelligent colleague, Crystal), we understand the impact of empowering entrepreneurial women. That is why we not only do our best to support women who are looking for their perfect career move, but also ensure we are finding ways to support other women-led SMEs.
So, why is it so important to empower women-led SMEs?
1. Women-led SMEs are likely to spot needs, opportunities, and threats that other businesses may not
Women often have different life experiences, challenges, interests, and needs. When over half of your buying public is female, missing out on products or services that these people would buy is a huge missed opportunity. A great example of this is the dating app, Bumble. The CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, spotted an opportunity to create a platform where women could take more control of the process. On Bumble, women need to make the first move, which not only provides greater agency, but also helps reduce the risk of sexual harassment. There are many opportunities out there looking to be discovered, but some can only be discovered from a certain perspective. The more we empower female entrepreneurs, the more opportunities will be discovered.
2. We’re missing out on SO many good ideas (that we don’t even know about!) by not investing in women-led SMEs
Similar to the first point, the more opportunities we create, the more good ideas will be put out into the world. Those fun family boardgame nights playing Monopoly? You have Elizabeth Magie to thank for that. Is the dishwasher your best friend in the kitchen? That’s an invention by Josephine Cochrane.
The list goes on: windscreen wipers, caller ID, life rafts, fire escapes, car heaters, Kevlar (bulletproof fabric), medical syringes, coffee filters, and foot-pedal bins. Can you imagine a world without these inventions? Think of what future generations could be thankful for with more inventors and entrepreneurs out there.
3. Women-led SMEs build the community and the economy
By empowering women-led SMEs, there’s a potential for meaningful, direct impact to the lives of hundreds of thousands of South Africans. Not only do women have the chance to invest in their families and those closest to them, but also contribute to the growth of the economy by creating jobs. SMEs are the backbone of our economy and account for about 60 – 70% of employment in South Africa. By building this sector, the whole country benefits.
Well, how do we boost and support women-led SMEs in South Africa?
1. Create opportunities and invest in entrepreneurs
Do you know of a woman in your company with a strong business drive? Is there a friend or family member that has a great idea? Find out ways they can build on those skills. Share the things that have worked for you. Offer to be a mentor as they start their journeys. Find courses and seminars for them to attend. Put them in touch with people who could help them. Share their marketing materials and social media ads. There are so many ways to empower female entrepreneurs on an individual level, and it’s important that we do.
2. Support programmes and organisations that train, empower, and create opportunities
There are so many amazing organisations that create opportunities for future entrepreneurs. One that’s close to our hearts is the Kay Mason Foundation – an organisation we partner with that creates opportunities for underprivileged students to gain access to quality education. Some other great organisations include:
- Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
- Business Women’s Association of South Africa
- Women Entrepreneurship For Africa by SAFEEM
3. Invest in women-led SMEs
We have direct experience with this. In 2020, we received a grant from Enygma Ventures that allowed us to turn our dream of creating an AI sourcing tool into a reality. Now Crystal is fully operational and doing her part to make a dent in unemployment. So many women with products or services that could change the world are stuck because they can’t generate the funding needed to get off the ground. If you have the means to invest in good ideas, for all the reasons above, you should consider investing in women-led SMEs.
Ladies, we have so much to offer the world of business
We have unique lived experiences, unique outlooks, and unique takes on problems and opportunities just waiting to be solved or grabbed. If you have a business dream, chase it. No one is going to believe in it more than you. Throw yourself into it whole-heartedly, knowing that the world needs your ideas.
Happy Women’s Month – go get ‘em!