July 24, 2024

Empowering Small Businesses in South Africa’s Furniture Sector

3 min read
Customer Panel: From left to right: Courtney Barnes (EFC), Ian Perry (Homewood), Kyle Swart (Mr Price Home), Paulina Urban (Mr Price Home), Chey Simpson (Mr Price Home) and Taryn Uys (Sheet Street).

  • EFC workshop provides SMEs with essential insights and support for growth

South Africa has one of the highest small business failure rates globally, with a significant number of startups closing their doors before they even get off the ground.

“I think small businesses in South Africa struggle to survive because of a few key factors,” says Kyle Ballard, Head of Accelerators at the eThekwini Furniture Cluster (EFC). “Coupled with cash flow, many entrepreneurs lack the experience and support they need to grow. Added to that, securing big customers can be tough as many Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) don’t have access to opportunities or worse, don’t meet the customers’ requirements.”

It appears that now, more than ever, the right support network for an SME is key to improving the odds of success. And that’s where the eThekwini Furniture Cluster (a public-private partnership between eThekwini Municipality, industry and other stakeholders) comes in. In addition to their Business Accelerator Programme, the EFC recently hosted over 30 small furniture manufacturing businesses at the EFC Customer Compass Workshop.

This workshop offered business owners in the furniture industry a unique opportunity to engage with leading retailers and manufacturers, including Mr Price Home, Sheet Street, and Homewood, in addition to peers in the sector. They were able to learn about customer standards and requirements and even identify where they were falling short. The training session focused on highlighting the crucial questions big customers ask when assessing potential suppliers and the SMEs learnt how to align their value proposition with customer needs and provide evidence of their competencies in each area.

The highlight of the day was the panel discussion which featured the retailers and large manufacturers detailing what they look for in high-potential suppliers. As a bonus, all SMEs in attendance also received a free associate membership to the EFC which will no doubt assist them in unlocking opportunities for further support, resources and networking opportunities in the sector. Additionally, select SMEs received access to a world-class business-building tool to help them scale their businesses.

“This workshop was a unique opportunity for SMEs in the furniture sector. Being able to connect with large customers and gain insights into their needs and expectations is gold and I believe that it has laid a solid foundation for these enterprises to scale up going forward,” Ballard states.

“It takes more than money to turn an idea or product into a viable, growing business which is why it’s important that we support SMEs on their journey with opportunities to gain market access opportunities,” adds Titus Mazibuko, Programme Manager of the Economic Development Unit at eThekwini Municipality. “We’re committed to driving the transformation and localisation of the furniture sector and offering programmes just like the Customer Compass, is key to us realising this commitment,” he concludes.

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