Around the world, both the public and private sectors have identified entrepreneurs as being critical to economic success and GDP growth.
In most markets, however, promising entrepreneurs lack the institutional support, mentorship and guidance required to turn ideas into sustainable enterprises.
Locally, black entrepreneurs are not only faced with a volatile economy, but they have to overcome an environment in which previous inequalities still hinder professional growth and access to key networks.
To address these challenges, Endeavor South Africa has developed a programme called Excelerator, which aims to bring historically disadvantaged groups into the South African entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Backed by Endeavor’s Board of Directors which includes the likes of Discovery CEO Adrian Gore and Paul Harris of RMB Holdings, Excelerator has helped some of South Africa’s most talented black entrepreneurs to turn fledgling businesses into high flying success stories.
“Excelerator seeks to extend Endeavor South Africa’s reach to identify the highest potential black-owned businesses,” explains Nolu Nghala, former Excelerator Portfolio Manager.
“We look for earlier stage businesses that have the potential to become high growth companies, by supporting them for 24-months.”
Intensive Selection Process
In order to join the Excelerator programme, entrepreneurs must meet the selection criteria. These include key elements such as leadership potential, ecosystem impact, scale and acceleration, ownership (founder led with 51% black ownership) and the business inflection point. The second step is to undergo intensive reviews, where Senior Business Mentors conduct up to five interviews with the entrepreneur to understand both the individual and the business. During this stage, entrepreneurs are expected to start compiling a detailed company profile and financials in preparation for the Local Selection Panel (made up of selected Mentors, Endeavor Board Members or active and alumni entrepreneurs), which ultimately selects the incoming Excelerator Entrepreneurs.
“It is a very thorough and rigorous process, and most entrepreneurs realise the immense value of Excelerator even before they become a part of it,” says Nolu. “We run four Local Selection Panels every year, and select around ten companies over this time.”
Once selected, Excelerator Entrepreneurs are assigned a dedicated Portfolio Manager to ensure that all available resources are accessed and leveraged. Entrepreneurs work closely with an advisory board of mentors, using a proprietary platform, to create a targeted action plan that tackles challenges and unlocks business value. In addition, Excelerator Entrepreneurs are invited to inspiration sessions and workshops where they connect with industry leaders and network with other entrepreneurs.
Making an Impact
To date, Endeavor’s Excelerator programme has supported standout successes that are making a significant impact on jobs and economic growth in South Africa. Such businesses include Tin-Pac Promotional Packaging, Matayo Biofuels, Stimela Brewing Co, Skinny Sbu Socks, Khepri Biosciences, Urban Grown and Tawanda Water Initiative (Pty) Ltd T/A LWI.
Dikeledi Mosime, founder of TIN-PAC (manufacturer of promotional tin-ware) says that the programme forced her to really take stock of the business – and to carefully review the existing structures and processes.
“As an entrepreneur with many ideas, you can get your priorities mixed up and start to lose direction,” she explains.
“The Excelerator advisory board guided me in bringing more accountability to the business, and helped me to create much needed structure and formalised processes.”
As a result of this input, Mosime focused on creating more brand awareness through marketing; identifying areas where production and efficiencies could be improved; and finding ways of better managing costs. This has all contributed to TIN-PAC’s steady growth and strengthened relationships with customers.
“The business has gained in strength and momentum, and we have learned to do more with what we already have,” she adds. “It is worth noting that the entrepreneur’s journey is a hard and lonely one, and programmes such as Excelerator truly lighten this burden. For any entrepreneur, it is an opportunity not to be missed.”