Absa today announced that free access to business support services, which include consultations, business facilities and infrastructural support at its Centre of Entrepreneurship in Newtown, Johannesburg has helped over 1 500 entrepreneurs prosper their businesses.

Since its launch less than a year ago, the Centre of Entrepreneurship has managed to cut the costs traditionally associated with starting and running a business through offering business support services, meeting rooms, presentation facilities, hot desks and boardrooms. The bank is on the verge of offering new services that include BEE certificates and internet connectivity.

Through the bank’s Procurement Portal, a virtual marketplace that connects SME suppliers with Blue Chip companies and government bodies, the growth of especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has been fast tracked to encourage Corporate SA to pursue products or services from them. More than 23 000 SMEs and 3 450 Corporate buyers are registered on the Portal and are actively using it.

Entrepreneurs singled out

Speaking at a media briefing today where Absa unveiled entrepreneurs supported by its Centre of Entrepreneurship, Happy Ralinala, Head of Absa Business Banking in South Africa said the centre’s success could also be attributed to the business advisory services, mentorship, business seminars, workshops, specialised training and access to business facilities offered to business owners.

Two such black, young South Africans - Vonani Mathebula and Evans Parson - were singled out as entrepreneurs whose businesses demonstrated significant growth, development and profitability, while taking advantage of the centre’s services. Both run 100% Black-owned and profitable media and communications companies.

Led by Vonani Mathebula, Brains Empowerment (Pty) Ltd publishes the successful Women Magazine. Boasting 33 800 copies sold to date, Vonani said the services offered by Absa’s Centre of Entrepreneurship have provided significant support in growing her business.

Evans Parson said Vensy Media’s vision was to be the major link between society and the sports industry. Its five year goal is to expand to 120 employees and provide printed copies to countries in Africa.

Landscape shifted

Also addressing media at the briefing Oscar Siziba, Provincial Head of Absa Business Banking in Gauteng said: “For local start-ups, the landscape has dramatically shifted: Costs to start and run a business - especially day-to-day expenses – have significantly increased.”

“Access to relevant non-financial support such as communications technology, office equipment and space or business consultation and training is important for business growth. We are proud that through offering this non-financial support, Absa’s Centre of Entrepreneurship brings more small business enterprises online and makes it easier to set up and grow a business,” he concluded.