Big retailer helps small suppliers get bigger slice of the pie

Massmart's supplier development programme honours first graduates


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One of the biggest challenges facing small businesses is access to markets. SMEs as small suppliers, are in a position through linkages to get a bigger slice of the market share that ensures their viability. 

When Massmart launched its supplier development programme (SDP) in 2014, it was the company's attempt to remove this obstacle that often hinders the growth of SMEs. The programme tries to assist SMEs by aligning them to do business with big conglomerates.

This week Massmart recognised and honoured 33 entrepreneurs who graduated from their one-year long entrepreneurship training course as part of its local SDP. Full certificate course costs were paid for by the retailer.

Milling from the front

Xolani Ndzaba, CEO Lethabo Milling, was the overall winner and walked away with a 12-month bolster programme and will recieve further business mentorship, as well as other prizes. 

Lethabo was a beneficiary of a R1.6 million grant from Massmart last year. Massmart was also acting as a 50% guarantor for a R8.2 million loan from Absa.

Other entrepreneurs like Lizelle Beukes and Antoinette Vermeulen received exclusive prices for their outstanding business plans.

​An ecstatic but humble Ndzaba said this achievement will elevate his business' profile a step higher. 

Lethabo Milling supplies 10 000 tons of maize meal a year to Massmart. "We have worked hard to be where we are. I think now we are at the level where we can only grow bigger and better from here going forward," he said.

 Ndzaba, a production manager by trade, founded Lethabo Milling, the only 100% black-owned milling company in the country, in 2011.

Massmart partners with SMEs and business developers

The Massmart Supplier Development Programme is a R242 million investment towards developing South African-based small suppliers that are either black-owned, black-empowered or local manufacturers in agriculture and manufacturing. 

The programme is a partnership between Massmart and the Gordon Institute of Business Science, with the aim of equipping the selected SMEs with vital business foundation skills. Their training for the calendar year covered the areas of finance, human resources, and business strategy.

Asked if he had gained any new business insights after having been through so many programmes before, Ndzaba said this particular one had been very fruitful.

"Learning is an asset for our business," said Ndzaba. "Since I entered this industry with only a skill but little business knowledge, I've committed to keep on learning as much as I can everyday."

Massmart supplier development lead, Sherry-Leigh Singh, agreed with Ndzaba about learning as a never-ending process.

"While many entrepreneurs understand their core business, there is always room to learn and improve both through formal classroom training and through peer to peer networking," said Singh. 

Supporting SMEs means economic growth and job creation

Massmart, a South African-based retail group, runs nine wholesale and retail chains with approximately 376 stores like Game, Dion and others in 12 sub-Saharan African countries.

The criteria for participation in the programme varied, as explained by Singh. 

"About 44% of the programme’s participants are women. While the majority of participants are in the manufacturing sector, many are in different stages of the business life-cycle," Singh said. "Some have only one year’s experience in running their businesses while others have several."

​GIBS Enterprise Development Academy Director, Yogavelli Nambiar added, "If South Africa is to achieve the goal of having the SME sector produce the largest quantity of jobs, we need to create, build and support enterprises that are going to sustain, grow and thrive."

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