December
1
2010


By Ivan Epstein
Softline CEO

According to new research by the Global Entrepreneur Monitor South African women will play an even greater role in unlocking economic growth in the country. Softline CEO, Ivan Epstein says that South Africa has many excellent examples of woman entrepreneurs and it is gaining momentum. “I believe that in an emerging market environment such as South Africa entrepreneurship will continue to benefit as more successful woman entrepreneurs enter the economy.” Epstein says that women entrepreneurs are needed to help diversify the economy and create jobs.

He says that Government and the private sector have started to recognise that entrepreneurship is a catalyst for economic growth with the private sector to some degree being driven by entrepreneurial thinking. But Epstein says more needs to be done to develop and foster entrepreneurship in South Africa. “In any democratic economic environment it is important to foster entrepreneurship. The ground is far more fertile in an emerging market such as South Africa where we are seeing even greater initiatives of entrepreneurship transpiring.”

According to research barely 5 percent of the South African population is involved in entrepreneurship compared to a norm of about 15 percent in other emerging economies such as China and Indonesia. Epstein says that the dynamics are different in South Africa as opposed to other countries. “Inflation, South Africa’s GDP, and levels of unemployment are all factors to take into consideration. We have to look at where we have come from over the past 15 years. It is not just a matter of looking at statistics across the globe. South Africans are an extremely driven, entrepreneurial and a self-sufficient motivated nation.”

But support for entrepreneurial thinking has to also come from venture capital firms. By contrast to the number of venture capital firms in South Africa, in the United States there are approximately 1,200 venture capital firms all searching for the next big idea. Epstein says it is difficult to compare the dynamics of South Africa to that of the United States. “They have vast access to capital that most other countries in the world don’t have. Venture capital firms flourish in the United States due to the easy access of capital; as well as millions of ideas and start-ups that surface each year, which in turn are sourced from many other countries across the globe.

He says that local banks also operate differently in South Africa and that risk appetite is different. But the failure rate for entrepreneurship is not necessarily always due to a lack of funding. “The reality is that many banks and private equity players are under pressure to make their money work and many entrepreneurs struggle to produce a viable business plan.
Epstein says that the best way to learn is to attend the ‘University of Life.’ He says that not everyone is born an entrepreneur. “Education definitely plays a major role in formulating formal plans and thinking, but there are many other options available to potential entrepreneurs wanting to put a formal plan in place “.

He says that the good thing about an entrepreneur or a great entrepreneurial idea is that too much planning or formality will potentially restrict the venture. “If you have an idea or concept, drive and passion with a burning desire to succeed, don’t let anything stop you.”


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