5 months ago

Opportunity Issue 104

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Opportunity magazine is a niche business-to-business publication that explores various investment opportunities within Southern Africa’s economic sectors. The publication is endorsed by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).


BUSINESS RESILIENCE Entrepreneurs Organization provides the backbone during times of crisis Entrepreneurs everywhere face tough challenges but in KwaZulu-Natal, issues like inflation and Covid-19 temporarily took a back seat to rioting and flooding during 2021 and 2022. Entrepreneurs were tested like never before in KwaZulu- Natal. Cindy Norcott, marketing chair for the peer-to-peer Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), who herself has survived the past 28 years running her own recruitment business, says that having a support network is key to an entrepreneur’s ability to bounce back. She believes that to be an entrepreneur, a key success factor is resilience. “Having a sense of optimism, self-belief and courage, despite the odds, are important characteristics to have if one is considering starting your own business,” she says, adding that three of her fellow EO members have demonstrated an inspirational ability to turn adversity into opportunity during recent tough times. Credit: Pexels Connect Space is now in a good space Bradley Porter: formerly of Flexible Workspace, now Connect Space Bradley Porter of Connect Space, a specialist property management company, was tripped up by both the Covid pandemic and an ill-timed decision to expand the business. He explains what happened to his former company, Flexible Workspace: “At its peak, Flexible Workspace had 20 full-time employees, supported several partner businesses, and managed six centres split over two regions totalling over 8000m2. We didn't realise the long-term Bradley Porter impact of the Gautrain on the Sandton property market. To recover the massive investment in this project, the city of Johannesburg increased the bulk allowance to boost its rates base. The result was that the market became a game of musical chairs with big law firms and other head offices moving out of their old stale spaces into flashy new ones. With no new entrants into this market, vacancies remained high. Couple this with the increasing popularity of serviced offices which meant that brokers and opportunists were fueling a market that could never be sustained. The result was an oversupply of stock and dwindling demand.” 50 |

BUSINESS RESILIENCE Connect Space has prime locations available in KwaZulu-Natal. A failed turnaround strategy and unsuccessful business rescue attempt left the company facing voluntary liquidation. “Feeling like our world had just come to an end, we began navigating our way through the liquidation. At the time I envisaged locks on doors, ruined lives, repossessed equipment, the sheriff at my home, rejection and alienation. What we witnessed was love, compassion and support,” he says. They found creditors who were prepared to engage, supportive customers and motivated staff. “This drove us to find a way out, but we had to get the support of the liquidators. Having presented our case to them, they agreed to a ’holding pattern’ where we could continue trading under their administration. In essence, the old business was dead, but they were giving us the opportunity to birth a new one,” he says. It was January 2021. His previous business partner took charge of the Johannesburg businesses, leaving him two in Durban. Bradley says that the Covid landscape has created a unique set of circumstances where the skills he had honed operating in the short-term and small office rental market over the past 15 years were perfect to support landlords. “Today, we’re a startup, a new brand and a new business but 100 times more prepared than before. The market has changed and so have we. We’re developing a new model, one that suits the future of space and services and one that will better benefit the user. Our immediate goal is to build the brand and dominate the market with a range of products more suited to the agile, workfrom-anywhere workforce.” Throughout this change, remembers Bradley, EO provided him with a safe space and support base while he was “figuring things out”. Recovering and connecting Saskia Hill: owner of MCS Debt Recovery and founder of Connect BPS Saski Hill’s business was completely destroyed during the July 2021 unrest in KwaZulu-Natal. “How do you react when you are told that your entire business has been burnt down? Not through negligence but by political unrest, something which is totally out of your control? This is something that you never expect to happen. It was an emotional, stressful time,” she recalls. MCS Debt Recovery counts leading banks, financial service providers, insurance companies and retailers as clients. Connect BPS’s clients are American based. It was these clients, together with staff, suppliers and her network of business associates who helped her begin to rebuild her business and, quite literally “rise from the ashes”. Saskia Hill “Every challenge you face in business allows you to build resilience and endurance which ultimately makes you stronger. When tragedy struck with the burning of the MCS/Connect building, I had to tap into that resilience to move forward. My inner strength and courage was supported by an amazing group of people. “It is during these challenging times that you call upon the relationships in which you have invested through the years, your family, friends, industry associates, mentors and business supporters. “This includes our EO tribe! Members from around the world reached out to me to offer assistance. The members were there to encourage, support and motivate me through the journey of rebuilding,” she says. One year later, the building is still not rebuilt. However, she has been able to re-establish her business and continue her entrepreneurial journey despite the turbulent economic times. “As entrepreneurs, we need to have a good understanding of the operations from the shop floor to the disaster-recovery procedures The building might not be ready yet, but the staff of MCS Debt Recovery are raring to to. | 51

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