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Before lockdown, more than 250 000 formal small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) were estimated to operate in South Africa. Now, a sobering study by the Global Entrepreneurship Network has reported that almost 55 000 of those SMMEs will not survive the year.
Limited access to bridging finance is a major reason why SMMEs are failing and despite the initial hope of business funding support to keep companies afloat during lockdown, this hasn’t been comprehensive enough under the severe economic impact of the pandemic. Many businesses, despite being experts in trade and the production and sale of products and services, struggle to navigate our complex financial environment, especially when it’s no longer “business as usual”.
But fortunately there are some SMME success stories and one of them is the partnership between M6T Seal Cargo and VodaLend.
In 2017 a group of seven young entrepreneurs saw a gap in the freight forwarding and customs clearing space and the business was born. M6T’s vision was to be proudly South African and is a 100% black-owned and 36% black woman-owned business. Its core values of authenticity, hard work, service orientation and flexibility have helped M6T remain focused, and the business is community-inspired, with 1% of profits going to CSI projects through the M6T Foundation.
Mpho Masemola, M6T’s Finance Manager, shares the experience of running a small business during the unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
'When we started, we only had enough capital to secure premises, second-hand office furniture, industry-related software and a basic ICT infrastructure. This was obviously a short-term solution, and sooner or later more working capital would be needed.
Within 48 hours, we had the R250 000 loan we needed!
'In December 2019, we decided to approach VodaLend, after a partner had heard about its products in a radio interview. What an inspired decision this was! The process was smooth and within 48 hours we had the R250 000 loan we needed. We were good to go.
'Just having made it this far is an inspiring entrepreneurial journey, but it didn’t end there. Four months later COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown arrived. No business plan could have predicted this.
'Everything changed. Borders and major trade lanes were closed. Most of the goods we transport weren’t considered essential, so we had to shut our offices for six weeks, with little activity and only management working from home.
'When lockdown restrictions were eased at Level 4, we returned to the office with some of our customers also reopening. Fortunately, our small size allowed us to absorb the blow without suffering much significant damage compared to the bigger players in our sector.
'VodaLend was a godsend! People have the perception that there’s no funding for small businesses, but VodaLend is there and has a simple process. They showed their human side too during the COVID pandemic and offered us a three-month payment holiday because our revenue had decreased as a result of reduced volumes in international trade.'