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Five tips for SMMEs to overcome the pandemic [Opinion]

Local small business owner, Mama Bongi shares her five tips for overcoming the pandemic for South African SMMEs….



Six months ago Mama Bongi the brand did not exist. Fast-forward to the end of 2020 and the artisanal chocolate biscuit bakery is reportedly supplying hundreds of bags of cookies to deli’s, food stores, and cafes all around the country, while large retailers are banging on their door to stock them. And this all happened while the country went into hard lockdown.

Top five tips for overcoming the pandemic

Millions of small businesses have been at the coal face of this pandemic. And many have not only survived but thrived. So says Karl Westvig, CEO of Retail Capital, whose company has published the book, Unlocked, a journey of struggle and survival to overcome lockdown as a business owner in South Africa.

The book features Mama Bongi’s story, which began in Julia Finnis-Bedford’s kitchen where Mama would make lunches for people on set with Amazing Spaces – Julia’s film location agency.

Mama would also make batches of cookies that proved very popular not only on film sets but also as client gifting. It was a small business in the making and then lockdown happened. There were no more film shoots and no more client gifting. Fortunately, a local deli agreed to stock the cookies, which paid off in a big way.

Here are Julia and Mama Bongi’s top five tips for overcoming the pandemic:

Stick to the recipe

When everything is going right, and something like a pandemic comes along that is out of your control, the best thing to do is focus on what you can still control. Many entrepreneurs who were on the brink of closure, had to dig deep to remember just what it was that made them successful in the first place.

For us, it was not deviating from a classic recipe that we knew people loved. We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we focused on making what we do, that much better, and then looked at ways to increase our popularity using our newly built website and Instagram.

Tap into your connections

Crises are interpreted differently for all of us and while some thrived in the online environment, others suffered in isolation. It’s about looking around at who you know, firstly in your inner circle, then in your working environment, to make recommendations or come to your aid when the chips are down.

We all know someone who has a car, or a computer, or even an essential driving permit during level 5. If there is a will there is a way, just don’t be shy to ask for help.

We needed to get a website set up, but didn’t have the spare money to pay for it. So we asked a designer friend to assist. Kate created the Mama Bongi website for free, just in time for Mother’s Day in May. Product literally flew off the virtual shelves.

The deli we approached also continued to place larger and larger orders as consumers turned to comfort foods during lockdown. Then within weeks, we ran out of the packaging, and thanks to the national shut down was unable to order more. Another friend came to our aid, gifting us with 200 bags, and without any access to stickers, labels were written by hand, adding to the product’s authenticity.

Mama’s cookies quickly caught on, and more cafes approached us to stock them, increasing production from 45 bags to up to 400 bags a week within just 3 months.

Embrace social media

Not being able to connect in person with people, we realised just how powerful social media could be for us. Using Instagram really paid off and catapulted Mama into the foodie sphere and soon we had big foodie bloggers following us saying they had tasted our cookies and loved them. They shared our photos and rave reviews about our product, thus exposing us to a much wider audience. Having a good product is what will distinguish you from the next guy, so stick to your winning recipe and it can’t hurt to take good photos too. Our own @mama.bongi page now has over 4000 followers.

To prove just how powerful social media can be, Mama Bongi got the attention of uCook’s Catherine Cartwright. She initially asked for two samples, which – after the cookie recipe was tweaked following Catherine’s advice, ended up being stocked by them. They also shared photos of the cookies with their 72 000 followers Instagram page. Stories by FoodSA and Woolworth’s Taste Magazine followed which lead to national inquiries, one being from a family-run Pick n Pay store in Pietermaritzburg, which is now a regular stockist.

Local is lekker

With borders being shut and imports and exports either forbidden or delayed, many industries found they couldn’t trade because of a part of the product they needed from overseas. The lockdown has taught us all to consider trading locally. We after all have so much talent and quality products right here to maintain our livelihoods.

While Mama is now stocked in stores countrywide, and online sales continue to boom, we’ve decided to keep our production line small, so we can focus on quality and maintain the brand’s artisanal feel. Investing in Mama’s entrepreneurial journey has caught the attention of many influencers and retailers because it’s a good local story, and we owe much of her early success to their support.

Planning Ahead

No matter how bleak the future may look, especially with there is a very real threat of a second wave, one needs to continue forging ahead. Planning is as essential as maintaining a positive outlook.

Our plan with Mama Bongi is to increase the size of the team so she gets help in the kitchen, thereby creating employment opportunities. I am also teaching Mama how to run a business, manage the costs, and overheads while producing a profitable product. With major retailers now knocking on the door, the challenge now is how to maintain our local bakery feel, while meeting demand from national stockists who all want a taste of Mama’s magic.

This article was written by Karl Westvig, CEO of Retail Capital.

Featured image: Mama Bongi (Supplied)




Oracle guidance misses expectations, stock drops

Oracle reported better-than-expected results and showed accelerating growth compared with the immediate impact of the coronavirus last year.



Safra Catz, co-chief executive officer of Oracle Corp.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Oracle shares fell 5% in extended trading on Tuesday after the company offered lower quarterly revenue guidance than expected as it plans to increase capital expenditures to support cloud computing workloads. The guidance came on Oracle’s earnings call after the enterprise software maker issued better-than-expected earnings and faster revenue growth than last quarter.

Here’s how the company did:

  • Earnings: $1.54 per share, adjusted, vs. $1.31 per share as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.
  • Revenue: $11.23 billion, vs. $11.04 billion as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.

With respect to guidance, Oracle CEO Safra Catz called for 94 cents to 98 cents in adjusted earnings per share and 3% to 5% revenue growth in the fiscal first quarter. Analysts polled by Refinitiv are expecting fiscal first-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.03 per share and the equivalent of 3% revenue growth.

“We expect to roughly double our cloud capex spend in FY 2022 to nearly $4 billion,” Catz said. “We are confident that the increased return in the cloud business more than justifies this increased investment, and our margins will expand over time.”

Revenue rose 8% year over year in Oracle’s fiscal fourth quarter, which ended on May 31, according to a statement. In the prior quarter revenue grew 3%. The accelerating growth benefited from a comparison against the quarter last year when the coronavirus arrived in the U.S. and Oracle’s revenue fell some 6%.

Oracle’s top segment by revenue, cloud services and license support, generated $7.39 billion, which was up 8% and above the FactSet consensus estimate of $7.32 billion in revenue. The company said revenue from its second-generation cloud infrastructure doubled in the quarter, but it did not provide the figure in dollars.

The cloud license and on-premises license segment contributed $2.14 billion in revenue, up 9% and more than the $2.05 billion consensus.

The company’s hardware revenue, at $882 million, was exactly in line with analysts’ estimates, declining 2%.

During the quarter Oracle announced new public-cloud computing options that draw on Arm-based chips, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a longstanding case between Oracle and Google, declaring that Google’s copying of Java code was fair use.

Notwithstanding the after-hours move, Oracle stock is up 26% since the start of the year, while the S&P 500 index is up 13% over the same period.

In May, Barclays analysts lowered their rating on the stock to the equivalent of hold from the equivalent of buy after the price had moved upward as investors rotated out of growth and into value. “To see further relative outperformance a growth acceleration at Oracle is needed, and we don’t have enough tangible data points for this yet,” the analysts wrote.

WATCH: The great tech tug-o-war

Here’s how the company did:



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Wayja releases SA’s first peer-to-peer betting app

Wayja launches its cashless peer-to-peer betting app, available on the Wayja site and on all major app stores by December 2021.



Joburg-based startup Wayja launched its cashless peer-to-peer betting platform earlier this month. The application allows users to connect with friends and make cashless wagers on anything, from anywhere.

Officially founded in 2020 by Reece Jacobsen and Clinton Holroyd, the startup has thus far been funded by seed capital from the founding team but will look to additional funding rounds as the platform scales.

Betting big on peer-to-peer growth

The SA gambling industry is currently estimated at R30-billion and Wayja fully intends to infiltrate the market. Wayja CEO Reece Jacobsen explains that the idea for the platform grew out of a simple human insight.

Peer-to-peer betting is fast overtaking more traditional forms of gambling

“Everybody loves that feeling of winning bragging rights over your peers. We see countless bets being placed in everyday situations between friends, colleagues and counterparts. If you’ve ever been in an office pool on Superbru, making bets on the golf course, or even if you’re making bets with friends over who will be the next to get married – then this is for you. Wayja is there to make informal betting simple, quick and cashless.”

Globally, peer-to-peer betting is fast overtaking more traditional forms of gambling. With the popularisation of cryptocurrency and online marketplaces, recent trends reflect that Gen-Z no longer places their trust in middlemen but prefers complete control of financial transactions. Wayja allows users to connect directly with potential opponents without the help and inevitable cost of a bookie.

Co-founder Clinton Holroyd clarifies: “The potential for scale is what makes this such an exciting venture for us – we’re already making headway into switching Wayja on in key international markets such as the US, UK, India, and Nigeria all while gaining further traction here within the South African market.”

Jacobsen is optimistic about the startup’s growth so far. “Our first few weeks in business have been very encouraging and has strengthened the conviction that we’ve built a platform that is filling a gap in the market. We believe that these early sign-ups will snowball as more people get exposed to the platform. The informal bet against friends is not a new phenomenon by any stretch, but Wayja truly brings it into the modern era,” he says.

The application is immediately available on the Wayja site and will be available for download on all major app stores by the end of 2021.

Read more: EXPLORE Insights offers 24-hour data analytics services for SMEs
Read more: How to Secure Funding as an SME [Opinion]

Featured image: Reece Jacobsen, Founder and CEO of Wayja (Supplied)



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Apple releases emergency update for older iPhones and iPads

If you’re running iOS 12, this is an update for you.



Apple is getting pretty committed to the idea of pushing out security updates to older iPhones and iPads. Not only will the company continue to support iOS 14 come the release of iOS 15, we are also seeing a trickle of patches for older versions of iOS.

If you have an iPhone or iPad that’s still running iOS 12 — because that was the end of the line for your device — then Apple has released an emergency update that you need to download and install as soon as possible.


Because of the three security fixes contained in this update, two “may have been actively exploited.” In other words, the bad guys might already be using the vulnerabilities to compromise smartphones and tablets.

Must read: Apple will finally give iPhone and iPad users an important choice to make

iOS 12.5,4 is available for the following devices:

  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPad Air
  • iPad mini 2
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPod touch (6th generation)

To check what version your device is running, tap on Settings > General, then on Software Update. Here you will see what version your iPhone of iPad is running along with any updates.

Note that if you have stayed on iOS 12 but the device is compatible with later versions, then this update will not be available to you. Your path is to upgrade to the latest release of iOS 14 or iPadOS 14.

There have been several high-profile security issuers plaguing iPhone and iPads over the past few months, and while for some there’s a hesitancy to install updates, it is the first and best line of defense against attack.

And iOS 12 and later will do it for you. Tap on Settings > General > Software Update > Customize Automatic Updates and then turn on Install iOS Updates.

Because of the three security fixes contained in this update, two “may have been actively exploited.” In other words, the bad guys might already be using the vulnerabilities to compromise smartphones and tablets.



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