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Why mentorship can make or break your startup [Opinion]

Alon Sachs, mentorship Chair of the Entrepreneur’s Organisation (EO) in Cape Town, shares some valuable insights about mentorship….



Having a mentor when you start a business can be as important as the actual product or service you’re selling. While the research on the positive impact of mentorship is clear, so many entrepreneurs still don’t have a mentor.

To have a good business idea is one thing, but taking that idea to market, and building a profitable and reputable brand is no easy feat

The journey is long and challenging. To have a mentor as a guide during these early and crucial stages is essential.

In 2019, a study was done to determine what South African small business owners and entrepreneurs gained from having a mentor. According to their findings, of the 209 South African recipients surveyed the majority of the respondents, 73.7% (154), had one or two mentoring relationships. Only 8.10% (17) had more than five mentoring relationships, while 46.6% (97) had been in a mentoring relationship in the past.

Proving that mentoring is a crucial part of most business strategies. Even some of the world’s most successful business leaders have mentors. For example, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin both received mentoring by Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt respectively at the early stages of their businesses.

Alon Sachs, mentorship Chair of the Entrepreneur’s Organisation (EO) in Cape Town, and co-founder of Mobelli Furniture + Living shares some valuable insights about mentorship and how to go about finding the right one.

Understanding what a mentor is and the value they bring is the first step in finding one. Most people get the three confused. A mentor is often seen as a role-model. Someone you aspire to be like. They have tons of experience and wisdom you can learn from. Advisors offer value by giving specific feedback about specific questions. Their role is more formal and expertise more granular. Coaches on the other hand have trained as a coach and may not have had any experience in starting or running a business.

While a mentor comes with mountains of experience it’s not up to them to advise a mentee on how to overcome the day-to-day challenges of the business. They offer guidance, support, and encouragement regarding long-term goals and challenges as well as career development. Ultimately it’s the business owner’s responsibility to take action. Mentors will be there to champion their efforts as they complete the suggested objectives.

All new businesses should have the future in mind but that is easier said than done when you are the only one making big decisions. Mentors offer an external perspective when it comes to making decisions that can cost you in the long run. They are more easily able to see your pain points as well as new opportunities and areas with room for improvement. You and your team might not always be able to spot the things that a mentor can.

Organisations like EO, offer a wide range of networking opportunities where you get to meet other entrepreneurs who may be leaders in their field and who are a potential fit as a mentor. A big bonus is that you won’t have to look far for referrals. Should you not belong to any entrepreneurial communities, look at leaders in your industry that you respect. Then begin by meeting with them to establish if you share a strong connection. If it’s a good fit, start there.

This article was written by Alon Sachs, mentorship Chair of the Entrepreneur’s Organisation (EO) in Cape Town.

Featured image: Alon Sachs, mentorship Chair of the Entrepreneur’s Organisation (EO) in Cape Town (Supplied)




The secret to levelling up your business

Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth provides key insights into finding, forming and implementing win/win partnerships for startups and SMMEs.



When Uber and Spotify partnered up a few years ago to give users custom music for their rides, it was a massive win/win for both companies, with each able to increase their reach to various audiences, offer extra value to users, and grow brand recognition and awareness.

Taking your business to the next level is a challenge many business owners face

But we can learn a lot from the Uber-Spotify collaboration. By forming strategic partnerships, you can often leapfrog on progress. Done right, a good partnership can have a tremendous impact on company growth, from increasing sales and reaching new markets to driving efficiency in your operations.

In fact, says Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth, in today’s age of collaboration, finding like-minded businesses to create alliances with can be a valuable tool in taking your company to greater heights.

Since their launch in 2014, SweepSouth have formed many partnerships with companies such as Unilever, FlySafair, FNB, @home, Superbalist, and NetFlorist, and it’s one of the smart strategies that’s propelled them from being a small tech start-up to taking their leaderboard place as SA’s largest on-demand home services platform, with recent expansion into Kenya.

“When we first partnered with other companies, we sought them out, but we’ve had such tangible results that it’s become a more organic process for us, with companies now seeking us out for strategic alliances,” says Pandor.

“Going into business partnerships is an age-old practice that remains relevant today. In our ever-more connected world, successful partnerships can go beyond signing paper contracts to building valuable relationships that form the stepping stones for exciting new ventures.”

For instance, a successful partnership with Airbnb last year gave them an additional avenue to reach Airbnb hosts who may have not have heard of SweepSouth before. It also provided Airbnb hosts, faced with stringent Covid-19 regulations, the chance to hire SweepSouth cleaners trained and certified in Airbnb’s enhanced cleaning protocols.

Alliances that complement your activities can be crucial to business growth. To help you find the right partnership fit and get the most out of it, here are some guidelines from Pandor.

Do some pre-work

“Before you set out to find a business to partner with, take stock of your company’s strengths and weaknesses and identify what gaps or functional requirements are needed to achieve your vision,” advises Pandor.

Establish exactly what you’d like to get out of an alliance with another company. Is it to find a different route to market, provide new services or products, expand into other territories, fill a skills gap, or gain exposure to a new client demographic? Partnerships manifest themselves in different ways. SweepSouth, for example, regularly does promotional partnerships with companies like McCain and UCook (for Father’s Day this June), which helps them reach new audiences.

“Exposure is imperative for your business, but it can be expensive to always promote your product or service on your own,” says Pandor. “Promotional partnerships are fairly simple, giving you access to a wider client pool and leveraging the trust and brand reputation associated with each company to deliver a higher level of perceived value for customers. The best of these partnerships are profitable to both sides, and also enhance business credibility and image.”

Once you’ve decided what kind of partnership you’re looking for, spend some time defining how you’d like the partnership to function, what you’d expect from it, and the metrics by which you’d measure its success. By outlining your expectations before you start searching for a partner, your efforts will be more productive than simply trying to decide if you just ‘like’ a potential company or not.

Things to look for in a partnership

To find a strategic partner that’s perfect for your business – and vice versa – do your due diligence and make sure the following boxes are ticked:

  • This might sound obvious, but choose a partner that makes sense to your business and to your clients. Think about your customers and the kinds of partnerships that would benefit them most.
  • The partnership must be a win-win-win relationship, and hold value for both companies, for it to be worthwhile.
  • Make sure that your brands align. “Being compatible in terms of vision, purpose, and goals forms a good basis for a successful partnership,” advises Aisha. “Having similar corporate priorities will help to ensure compatibility. If you choose a partner whose objectives and values clash with yours, it could drive a wedge between you over time.”

Benefits of a strategic partnership

Provides a competitive advantage. A good partnership boosts your expertise and resources to create better services or products, offer stronger value to clients, or help you reach a different audience, thereby taking your business to a new level.

It inspires you. It’s easy to get stuck into a day-to-day routine in your business. Seeing how other companies do something can provide a fresh perspective and help you think in creative new ways.

Gives access to knowledge. A big benefit of a strategic partnership agreement is the opportunity to learn from other professionals who bring different skills and strengths to the table. You can then use that knowledge and information to better your business.

Broaden your network. Networking and making professional connections are key to business success. By forming an alliance with a company, you’re exposed to new colleagues, contacts, and customers.

Strengthens your company. Operating in isolation and trying to do everything yourself, especially if you don’t have the know-how in a specific area, can cost time and money. The right partnership can help you better your weaknesses and enhance your strengths, making your business more stable and strong. Some collaborative relationships can even help to reduce costs, such as if you share development and marketing expenses.

Going forward

Once you’ve found a company to partner with, draw up clear agreements, taking the time to iron out every detail. Set clear expectations and goals, defining what the partnership should accomplish for each company.

Next, set your partnership up for success by forging a strong way of working together. “Make an effort to build and cultivate the relationship, and communicate frequently to minimise misunderstandings,” advises Pandor. “Check-in regularly to see what is doing well and what can be improved, and give each other honest feedback. Trust, transparency, and respect are key for a partnership agreement to work. Both parties need to view each other as necessary equals to keep things going forward.”

Sometimes, even though seemingly promising at the start, a business partnership doesn’t work out. “It’s okay to end it if it’s failing,” says Pandor. “A poor partnership can cause massive problems, so rather walk away and focus on finding something new.”

A good partnership, on the other hand, can be of value to even the most successful of businesses, freeing you up to focus on other activities and areas that drive growth. Moreover, if done right, a strategic alliance can be built into something that can benefit both companies for years to come.

This article was written by Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth.

Featured image: Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth.

Aisha Pandor

Aisha Pandor is the co-founder and CEO of SweepSouth.SweepSouth is Africa’s first online platform for booking, managing and paying for home cleaning services. Pandor has led SweepSouth to become one of the fastest-growing startups in the country. Venture-backed, SweepSouth became the first South African startup to be accepted into the prestigious 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley.Pandor completed her PhD in Human Genetics at the University of Cape Town. Following her studies, she went on to work as a management consultant before launching SweepSouth, which connects unemployed and underemployed domestic workers with homeowners, providing work opportunities for thousands of women. Aisha was recognised by the World Economic Forum in 2017 as one six African female breakthrough innovators.

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In fact, says Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth, in today’s age of collaboration, finding like-minded businesses to create alliances with can be a valuable tool in taking your company to greater heights.



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Absa opens procurement portal to streamline supplier diversity –

New portal opens opportunities for SMMEs to apply for tenders, become corporate suppliers and receive training and mentorship from Absa Group.



African financial services provider Absa Group has opened their user-friendly procurement portal, allowing Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to apply and be verified as suppliers.

Absa Group opens procurement portal for SMMEs to be verified as suppliers

This opportunity means that SMMEs, currently the drivers of our post-pandemic economy, will be able to search for and network with corporate suppliers and win tenders which previously would not be accessible. The portal aims to be available across the continent but will be launched first in South Africa.

Responsible and inclusive procurement

Tender management solutions and secure technology requests are just two portal tools that will make collaboration between future suppliers and corporations possible. Absa’s end-goal sees a dialogue created to close gaps in communication around products, services, tenders and RFPs so that all relevant businesses have equal opportunity to apply.

Suppliers can enter their details into Absa’s database and quickly identify necessary procurement categories and services, including construction, ICT, marketing and cash management. SMMEs have access to corporate supply and Absa will continue to further their ongoing entrepreneurship development programmes.

Vusi Fele, Chief Procurement Officer at Absa Group Ltd, says “Absa’s Procurement Market portal not only demonstrates Absa’s strategy of promoting responsible and inclusive procurement practices but also ensures that all suppliers are aware of the bank’s service requirements – information that was not previously widely available. What’s more, it will help us build mutually beneficial, thriving, inclusive and healthy supplier relationships.”

Fele believes that a supplier diversity approach will drive sustainability and invigorate the bank’s supply chain. “Not only will we be able to identify suppliers that comply with B-BBEE requirements, but we will also be able to award and extend contracts to currently Exempted Micro Enterprises (EME) and Qualifying Small Enterprises (QSEs). We are also excited to welcome new suppliers to our business.”

Qualifying SMMEs participating in the programme are also eligible for Absa’s Supplier Development Programme, which provides business support and training, and funding at good interest rates with minimal to no collateral required.

Fele motivates small businesses across Africa to join.

“We look forward to leveraging this portal to drive meaningful entrepreneurship development and deliver material benefits to local economic and social reform.”

Visit the portal to sign up or for more information.

Read more: Google launches programmes to support African SMEs
Read more: Hackathon aims to grow the township economy through digital solutions

Featured image: Vusi Fele, Chief Procurement Officer at Absa Group Ltd (Supplied)

Suppliers can enter their details into Absa’s database and quickly identify necessary procurement categories and services, including construction, ICT, marketing and cash management. SMMEs have access to corporate supply and Absa will continue to further their ongoing entrepreneurship development programmes.



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Local fintech grows SA online shopper base by 4000%

Payflex, a buy now pay later provider (BNPL), has announced that its part-payment platform grew from a shopper base of 2000 to 85 000 in a mere 12 months.



Johannesburg-based fintech startup Payflex, a buy now pay later provider (BNPL), has announced that its part-payment platform grew from a shopper base of 2000 to 85 000 in a mere 12 months. In addition, its customer base grew from 70 merchants in 2019 to 750 this year.

Payflex has grown its user base by 4000% in 12 months

Jarred Deacon, head of growth at Payflex attributes the fintech’s successful growth to its product offering.

“The growth in our business, during a pandemic, mirrors e-commerce adoption and expansion. With a BNPL payment option, customers tend to convert quicker and since they only pay for a quarter of their purchase right away, they tend to buy more and load their shopping cart. Merchants are settled in full for all purchases next business day, which increases cash flow and lowers fraud and chargeback risks. It’s a no-brainer.”

Payflex buy now pay later feature

The fintech’s buy no pay later model enables customers to shop at over 700 well-known online stores such as Cotton-on, Superbalist, and The Pro Shop. Payments are split over four interest-free installments.

For example, if a consumer purchases a watch for R 1000, the first payment upfront will be R250 and the three additional payments will be R250 every two weeks for a period of six weeks.

The platform has been developed to inform users on how and when payments are required, creating a transparent buy now pay later system with consumers.

If a customer misses a scheduled payment, a fee will be charged and the fintech has ensured that the process is simple and quick for customers.

Benefiting retailers

According to reports, merchants that offer Payflex as a payment option have reported higher order values of up to 70% and an overall sales increase of up to 30%.

In addition, the purchase rate has increased by 70% for merchants that offer Payflex as a flexible payment option to consumers.

“A leading tech retailer in South Africa which offers Payflex confirmed that Payflex generates the highest number of referral leads, indicating that Payflex is following the global BNPL trends,” adds Deacon.

Merchants pay no setup fees when partnering with Payflex and only pay transaction fees on successful orders.

Merchants are finding that BNPL significantly expands their customer base.

Ally Cohen, owner of, and a client for Payflex explains that the BNPL mechanism offered is a complete game-changer for e-commerce stores.

“Cart order size is higher, as customers know they can pay off the order.”

Read more: Google launches programmes to support African SMEs
Read more: New Incubator launches to tackle youth unemployment

Featured image: Jarred Deacon, head of growth at Payflex (Supplied)



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