Africa and the world, needs more business owners – especially those who start-up, establish and grow SMEs. Research has proven that entrepreneurial SMEs are very effective at stimulating economic growth, generating wealth and creating jobs – all of which are required for us to successfully combat unemployment and poverty which afflicts much of the world.
To encourage more people to pursue entrepreneurship as a noble career, we must honour and celebrate entrepreneurs as role models – the true heroes of economic society who, often against all odds, generate wealth for themselves and their families and create jobs for many – and we must champion their cause. This is what we strive to do at BUSINESS/PARTNERS in South Africa and other selected African countries where we operate, namely Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda and Uganda.
Our story started in 1979 at a business conference in downtown Johannesburg. The late Dr Anton Rupert – egged on by his son, Johann – proposed the idea for a joint venture between the public and private sectors to finance and support SMEs.
In 1981 the Small Business Development Corporation Ltd (SBDC) was established, with both the public and private sectors having equal shareholding. The main role of the SBDC was to provide investment capital and business support to small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). These beneficiary businesses could be a start-up, in the process of expansion, or one without access to capital markets. In short, the SBDC backed potential.
The SBDC quickly gained a reputation for being first-class in its field, and by 1994, was referred to by The World Bank as “unmatched by any other financial institution in South Africa”. The dawn of South Africa’s democracy marked the commencement of a restructuring process for the SBDC. Extensive negotiations between its public and private sector shareholders resulted in the company narrowing its focus and market segment to SMEs only. The SBDC affirmed its position as an independent profit-making company with the vision of being the best value-adding provider of capital to SMEs in South Africa.
With the conclusion of the restructuring process came the decision to reposition our brand. And so in 1998, the Small Business Development Corporation Limited became Business Partners Limited. This repositioning process cemented our move into the niche SME market. It resulted in the introduction of innovative financing and investment products for SMEs, and the restructuring of the property portfolio to ensure that business premises would be made available at market-related rentals for SMEs.
Our new name ‘BUSINESS/PARTNERS’ reflects the partnership relationship we form with each of the entrepreneurs we support. It reflects our commitment not only to invest in viable SMEs, but to also contribute the much-needed value-adding support services to SMEs. It also expresses the partnership we form with the entrepreneurs we support.
To ensure our relevance and strengthen our SME niche market position, we regularly review our business processes. We also undertake initiatives to raise awareness around our brand, increase understanding of our product and service offering and increase the number and value of investment deals per annum.
As part of this review process, in 2014 we undertook another repositioning exercise with the specific intent of reviving our brand presence and helping to foster and entrench a culture of entrepreneurship amongst all Africans. This process resulted in the improvement of our processes, refinement of our products and changes in our logo.
Our logo reflects not only the crux of who we are, but also of who we aim to serve. The entrepreneur. At first glance, one of the stylised objects is different from the rest. It stands out and is one of a kind – the square peg in the sea of round holes. This represents the rarity of people who possess the qualities necessary to be an entrepreneur. The ‘twist’ of the square peg further emphasises the distinctive, mould-breaking character of the entrepreneur. This reflects not only the entrepreneurial qualities of the target market, but of BUSINESS/PARTNERS itself.
In striving to make entrepreneurship the most aspirational human endeavour of all, we have identified the Entrepreneurs Credo as being at the centre of our DNA.
Our Entrepreneurs Credo is taken from Thomas Paine’s ‘The Common Man’, written in 1776. It is an ageless piece of writing that speaks to the life choices and beliefs of an entrepreneur. This is a passage that speaks to who we are and who we aspire to be. The words articulate what runs in our blood, what inspires us to do what we do. An inspiring sentiment, we wish that every entrepreneur would read these words on a daily basis.
I do not choose to be a common (wo)man.
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can.
I seek opportunity … not security.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build. To fail and to succeed.
I will never cower before any master,
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, I have done.
I am an entrepreneur.
Thomas Paine, 1776
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