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The Tholoana Enterprise Programme wants to transform your business

Initiative focuses on youth, women and rural-based enterprises


Candidates from the 2016 Johannesburg SABF Tholoana workshop.

Photo provided

The process of starting a new business is similar to that of planting a seed. When taken care of properly, the seed grows into a plant - the result of time and effort. 

Tholoanais the Sesotho word for seed and the name of SAB's enterprise development programme. 

The Tholoana Enterprise programme, launched in 2015, is the brainchild of SAB Foundation director, Bridgit Evans, who launched the programme to expand the capabilities of what was then the Tholoana Enterprise Fund, which was then only providing entrepreneurs with funding.

The new programme aims to equip entrepreneurs with the right skills and solutions to accelerate their businesses, with a particular focus on supporting women and youth driven enterprises, entrepreneurs based in rural and peri-urban areas and those with disabilities.  

They welcome applications from businesses working in new and/or growing sectors such as export, manufacturing, food processing, water, energy and waste management.

The programme is funded by the SAB Foundation with the Fetola Enterprise Programme coming in as a partner. Fetola are a business growth professionals organisation, with a large national footprint.

"We eventually decided to work with Fetola, because we [want to] try to reach entrepreneurs outside the metropolitan areas, and because we also have a rural mandate, we want to make sure that we make a significant difference to entrepreneurs that are not necessarily in Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town," says Evans. 

​Serious candidates only

The programme takes on entrepreneurs chosen from across the country. According to the SAB website, the candidates are put though skills training and access to markets workshops and receive investment-readiness support to not only improve their skills levels, but their confidence levels too.

For candidates, the process begins with online applications which are then screened. For Evans, this careful selection of their entrepreneurs is what's behind their programme's success. The 2 000 applications received are narrowed to 80 candidates who are then invited to a workshop.

"This workshop is focused on entrepreneurs and where they want to go as a business and as a result of that workshop, the final 60 are chosen. It's about finding people who are committed to grow and that's what we're looking for," says Evans.

See also: Your guide to the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller programme


Because of a high level of interest, only serious candidates are considered. The programme is looking to develop already committed business owners that have been operating for at least six months, but also less than five years.

"We need to see a commitment on their part. We recognise the importance of ideas and we actually have something else we do at the idea stage. Our Social Innovation Awards looks at businesses that are not operational yet, but we want to see some commitment on their part with the Tholoana programme, because it's a huge investment that we're making with these businesses. We need to select people who are serious about it," says Evans.

The entrepreneurs are guided by the Fetola mentors who operate across all nine provinces. They include Anna Harris who supports entrepreneurs in Limpopo, Ntando Maseko who mentors Mpumalanga candidates, and Gerhard van Deventer who mentors Gauteng and Limpopo candidates.

All the mentors have first-hand experience with starting businesses.

After the programme, the mentors and facilitators continue to stay connected to the entrepreneurs throughout the growth of their business ventures. 

"We are looking at how we connect them to additional finances, and that's the idea for 2017 and going forward. We are committed to spending the journey with them," says Evans.


Who is eligible to enter this programme?
You are eligible to enter if:

  • The business is black-owned and managed.
  • The business is operational.
  • The business is headquartered and registered (if applicable), within the South African borders.
  • The business should be an on-going concern, commercially sustainable and viable.
  • The applicant is involved in the business's daily operations and management on a full time basis, and are not employed by any other organisation.
  • The applicant has the skills and experience necessary for the type of business they’re engaged in.
  • The business is in the early stages of growth (older than six months and no more than five years).

When do entries close for the 2017 programme?
The Tholoana Enterprise Programme applications are open from 15 February 2017 and has extended to midnight on 19 March 2017.

How do I apply?
The link to the online application form is available on www.sabfoundation.co.za. Submissions close at noon on 15 March (11:59 midday). Unfortunately, no late applications will be considered.

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