A pilot group of five entrepreneurs graduated from diversified miner Anglo American’s Entrepreneur Internship Programme (EIP) last month.
The graduates are now equipped with a market-ready business plan that will provide them with a foundation to run a successful business, with strong growth opportunities, Anglo American supply chain learning and development manager Bernd Schulz tells Mining Weekly.
The five graduate entrepreneurs, whose newly established businesses are already trading are Sakhizwe Engineering owner Mkhokeli Mlilo, SPM Engineering cofounder and MD Sejako Morejwane, Crunchyard owner Renier Dreyer, Amon Pumps owner Thembelani Ngulube and Scully Scooters owner Lynne Scullard.
The EIP, which is hosted by Anglo American’s Supply Chain division, is a focused 12-month internship programme that aims to accelerate the ability of high-potential entrepreneurs to create job opportunities and achieve rapid growth in employment size and revenues.
Schulz says that the EIP graduates could, in future, work with Anglo American’s supply chain to supply a pipeline of high-quality special-interest products and services to the miner.
The five entrepreneurs from Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the North West province were chosen out of nearly 370 applicants when the programme was launched in March last year. The programme was open to employees of Anglo American and the public, although the employees had to resign before embarking on the programme, explains Anglo American Supply Chain human resource business partner Tijen Diraz, adding that three of the five graduates were Anglo American employees.
The entrepreneurs were then taught using experiential learning, industry exposure, mentoring and networking.
“We provided mentorship and coaching for the entrepreneurs – internally we matched them with senior managers to provide an understanding of how Anglo American operates and, externally, we provided a framework on which to develop their business,” explains Schulz.
Anglo American provided a stipend to cover basic subsistence for the 12 months, exposure to its business operations, access to in-house experts and networks relevant to the entrepreneur's business opportunities.
Each entrepreneur also received ongoing business-planning support through collaboration with South Africa-based small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development company Aurik Business Incubator.
Aurik Business Incubator identified factors that led to business failures in the first three years and structured its programme around the ways of addressing and preventing this.
Core elements of focus during the EIP include the Capability Accelerator Programme, which was initiated in the first month and aims to teach entrepreneurs innovative ways to improve their individual and team performance through action learning.
Further, the four modules presented by Aurik Business Incubator – marketing, sales, strategy and finance – were key elements in developing the entrepreneur’s business experience.
Although the entrepreneurs started the programme with a good balance of technical and interpersonal skills, the EIP provided a combination of these, says Schulz.
“The programme is targeted at entrepreneurs who have a medium- to large-sized business and who can potentially create a good turnover and sustainable jobs in the medium term,” says Diraz.
The EIP also helped create sustainable jobs, as 60 people have already been employed by the new businesses, says Schulz.
“We wanted the entrepreneurs to employ themselves and employ at least one other person by the end of 12-month programme. This was successfully met by most of the entrepreneurs early on in the programme, which was gratifying to see.
“Also, while working with Aurik, the entrepreneurs had to reach goals, and missing them meant falling behind in the programme. This didn’t happen, but instead, milestones were met earlier than expected,” says Diraz.
Anglo American embarked on the EIP because the company wants to play a role in society by making a lasting difference, wherever and whenever it operates.
“This principle is key in the EIP, as our company is acting as an enabler in facilitating economic activity and business development,” says Anglo American Thermal Coal chief executive Godfrey Gomwe.
Anglo American's goal is to offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to focus only on building their business for an entire year to enable them to succeed and not be counted as business failure statistics.
Further, Schulz says Anglo American wanted the entrepreneur interns to develop the values that Anglo American stands for, namely enriching and uplifting the communities in which the company operates, creating more job opportunities and giving unemployed individuals a chance.
"We chose good entrepreneurs and developed them into greater entrepreneurs through the EIP," says Diraz.
The EIP, as a proved programme for entrepreneur development, seeks to impact on those entrepreneurs who can make a fairly substantial impact in future in terms of their influence in business, says Gomwe.
“This programme is about doing business and being useful in society, not about providing donations, grants or undertaking corporate social investment.”
Anglo American’s supply chain division was required to submit a proposal and business case for the EIP to the Anglo American Group Management Committee to obtain funding for the programme, the stipend, the media campaign and the Aurik Business Incubator development fees.
Meanwhile, funding for the entrepreneurs’ businesses is provided through Anglo American’s enterprise development arm, Zimele. Entrepreneurs can apply for funding, provided they have a strong enough business model. “While some entrepreneurs were funded, others felt they did not need funding; however, some are still in the process of obtaining funding,” says Diraz.
“We wanted to make it easier for people to become entrepreneurs without making the process artificial or de-risking it; we had no influence over Zimele’s funding, as this was determined on the merit of the business cases presented,” says Schulz.
The EIP is, however, an advance on Anglo American's Zimele enterprise development and investment initiative fund, which provides empowerment opportunities for previously disadvantaged South African SMEs.
The EIP focuses instead on medium-sized to large enterprises and the development of entrepreneurs who are able to run fair-sized businesses, absorb the growth of the business and manage a business of this size, which would enable the business to become a relevant and material contributor to society.
Meanwhile, Anglo American's supply chain division is in discussion with Zimele on introducing the second wave of the EIP participants.
“Our plan, which is still in the approval phase, is to run a second wave in the latter part of the year, around September. The programme will take into account the key lessons from the pilot phase and develop it. We would also like to increase the number of entrepreneurs we bring on board,” says Diraz.
For entrepreneurs who are considering applying for the EIP, Morejwane stresses the importance of knowing why you want to be in business. “One has to be clear with one’s vision and mission, while perseverance also helps.”
Mlilo adds that having a mix of passion for what you do and perseverance to achieve one’s goals is important, as being an entrepreneur challenges one immensely.
A challenge of being an entrepreneur is to turn one’s vision into a business. Dreyer notes that Aurik Business Incubator helped the entrepreneurs build the correct processes and procedures to enable them to successfully run the business.