28 October 2013 – The 4th Annual Soweto Conference on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development has kicked off at the University of Johannesburg with a full day of practical training sessions for more than 500 registered delegates.
“The aim of the conference is to engage Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in previously disadvantaged communities to create vibrant and sustainable township economies,” says Ms Moipone Molotsi, Director of the Centre for Small Business Development (CSBD) at the University of Johannesburg; the centre responsible for managing the conference.
The theme of the conference for this year is “Turning Tangible and Intangible Assets and Resources in Townships into Business Opportunities” and according to Ms Molotsi this year’s event is geared at encouraging the township community to start engaging with their own environment and exploring the opportunities they already have available to them.
Today’s focus was on practical training and delegates had a choice of various training workshops including: Sales and Marketing and Financial Management.
Tomorrow will see the arrival of Gauteng Premier, Nomvula Mokonyane, who will provide the keynote address, along with the event’s leading sponsors, which include: the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Seta (Merseta), the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP), and the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
“The conference is aimed at small business owners, academics, government representatives and leaders in small business development,” says Ms Molotsi. “We want to make sure we meet every expectation. The conference will present academic papers and insights based on research. We will give voice to SMMEs who have gone through different developmental stages in business and get input from practice-leaders, who will inform businesses of opportunities that are available and developmental programmes that may be accessed going forward,” she added.
The conference will include presentations from SMMEs on their journeys in small business, unpacking the challenges and inspiring delegates with their success stories. “We often hear stories of success and believe these achievements happened over night,” she says. “It helps to understand the process behind the story, to hear that others overcame start-up challenges. These journeys will inspire others not to lose hope,” she added.
The CSBD was established by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) within its Faculty of Management in 2006. The CSBD aims to enhance the culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa and to facilitate the mainstreaming of small business in the local economy. Its primary role is to facilitate the growth and development of small businesses in the townships in and around the greater Johannesburg metropole through various business development and support interventions. Since 2010, the CSBD has hosted the Annual Soweto Conference, which aims to: Facilitate information provision, Identify small business needs, Share knowledge, research and best practices in enterprise development, Identify feasible projects for implementation and Provide a networking platform.
“We are certain that this year’s conference will encourage the township community to start engaging with their own environment,” Ms Molotsi says. “We want them to recognise opportunities for innovation and utilise resources to grow their businesses in the townships,” she concluded.