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Women in
Small Business

How women in South Africa start, run, and grow their businesses
I still think it’s insanity to leave a 14-year streak of consistent income to chase a dream. Madness! Who does that? Who chooses a life of uncertainty over the guaranteed monthly deposit, without fail?

Lately, I’m reminded of that point in my life where no amount of reasoning could have talked me out of what was becoming a mystical magnet drawing me to try a new thing. To get out from behind the safety net, and start something completely new. And mine.

I made a pact with myself to combine all that I knew, all that I was naturally talented in, all that interested me - and most of all, all that I had an unending curiosity for.

And then started.

I kept my job for a while afterwards. In fact you can still say I have another career that still has to run alongside this passion. There are many (many!) other things you need to think about when starting a business. It is important that you park the butterflies to ‘work the numbers' soon enough. But when it comes to dreaming up the thing You want to contribute to the world?

You just start.

I hope you enjoy this “Women in Small Business” report which Yoco has created to shed a small light on the process of starting, running and growing a business as a woman in South Africa.
Gugu Nkabinde
Founder & CEO of Gugu Intimates

Pela Pela Foods

Yoco Merchant #30 952

Just start

Most women started their first business before they turned 30. Some always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. Others came up with a brilliant idea and decided to run with it. A few started a side hustle that turned into a thriving business.

No matter how they might have started, the majority said that starting their business was much more difficult than they expected it to be.

A third of the women that we spoke to said that there was a barrier preventing them from diving right in. Access to finance is the number one barrier. Not having enough time or the right skills to start their business also held them up.

What kept you from jumping in immediately?

What motivates women to start?

Love – 68% of women started their business so that they can do what they love every single day.
 
Another motivator for women to start businesses is to have the flexibility to live more self-directed lifestyles. Women appreciated the ability to take the business into their own hands. It gives them the freedom to work in whichever way they choose and to live the life they want to lead.
0 %
are motivated by love
Men and women differ when you ask them about the type of owner they want to be. Women’s love for the work they do lead 30% of them to pick being an Artist. Women tend to build their business around their unique skills or creative talents. Only 17% of male business owners view themselves as artists.
 
Men lean more towards the Advisor owner type. Advisors view themselves as the type of owner that believes the customer is always right. Advisors put the customer first and do everything they can to make the customer happy.
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Challenges for women in business

When comparing the top challenges for women vs men, there aren’t many differences at all. 

The top two challenges for both genders are the poor state of the economy and troubles with cash flow.

The third biggest challenge for women is a lack of access to finance, while men are more concerned about the political uncertainty in South Africa. Political uncertainty is only the 6th biggest challenge for women, with worries about growth of their customer base and competition with big business beating it.

Top Three Challenges

Poor state of the economy
0 %
Women
0 %
Men
Cash flow
0 %
Women
0 %
Men
Access to finance
0 %
Women
0 %
Men
To learn more about the challenges for women in business, click here.

Access to finance for women in small business

Growing your business relies on funding. Sometimes the profit you make just can’t cover your growth plans. Whether you’re buying more stock, marketing your business or opening a new location, you need funding to grow.

The top three reasons why owners applied for funding:

0 %
to invest in equipment
0 %
to drive business growth
0 %
to buy stock
Despite the importance of access to funding, three quarters of women had never applied for formal funding for their business.
 
Of the women that did apply, only half were successful in securing the amount of funding that they asked for. This is in line with the stats experienced by male business owners.

Funding for the future

15% of the women in this survey said that they will be looking for funding to grow their business in the next 12 months. This number rises to 19% for male owned businesses.
Men are less likely to rely on their personal savings or sources of finance options to fund their businesses in the future. They are 7% more likely to ask for funding through a bank loan.
 
The fact that men are more willing to approach banks for future funding could show an implied credibility gap. Could it mean that women tend to be rejected more often by banks? Do they have a greater fear that their ideas won’t be backed? There are insights underlying the data that are important to unpack to ensure women have equal footing when it comes to starting a business.
The entrepreneurial experience for women and men is not too different. Their struggles are similar: most evidently with the challenge of getting funding and access to finance.

But where women set themselves apart is in the ‘why’. Why keep pushing when confronted with the many challenges that small business owners face? Whether it’s Gugu’s goal of making women feel as if they belong in their own skin, Mokgadi’s passion for natural honey or Tina’s Xhosa-inspired fashion, women tend to be more motivated by love and the desire to build businesses around their unique skills.

Gugu puts it best in the foreword: it’s insanity! But it’s the type of madness and passion that drives the economy forward and enables the country to thrive.

For that we salute them.

Women in Small Business

9 August 2019