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Many small businesses are struggling to manage the financial environment in which they operate, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. They need assistance with financial literacy, financial planning, legal backing, and effective money management.  

The under-serviced small business market is full of untapped potential and allows innovative funders, who are able to tailor business-specific solutions, to help these companies reach their full potential. 

This is the inspiring story of The Bread Box Bakery, one of the first small start-up businesses to receive funding from VodaLend | Business Term Advance. The company is now playing a crucial community-assistance role in the COVID-19 lockdown crisis by feeding more than one hundred desperate children in Midrand. 

The company’s founder, Matlhogonolo Ledwaba, explains that since starting her business in 2017, she soon needed to expand her business but sourcing the right funding was a significant challenge.  

After appealing unsuccessfully for funding from the banks, she approached VodaLend which forms part of Vodacom Financial Services. The requirements were simple and the application process was quick and user-friendly.  

With funding secured, Matlhogonolo was able to purchase an industrial scale oven as well as equipment needed to start a baking school in the local community.  

“The simple application process, which requires no paperwork, no waiting, or visiting a branch, was refreshing. The VodaLend team has become part of our Bread Box Bakery family,” says Matlhogonolo. 

“There is no doubt that VodaLend Business has made a material difference to our business. We have been able to expand our product range to include bread, cakes, rolls, and desserts. The increase in business means we can employ more people and our customer base now includes both retail outlets in the area and corporate catering companies. The VodaLend team as part of the funding programme has provided ongoing support and advice, which has been invaluable,” she continues. 

COVID-19 lockdown delivers an unexpected blow 

Matlhogonolo explains, “I nearly shut down because of the pandemic. But then I thought of all the people relying on me - my employees and the desperate kids out there. Bread is an essential, basic foodstuff so I just had to press on no matter the challenges.” 

Together with other companies in the food business, the bakery donates the food to orphanages in the area.  “Other suppliers add meat, vegetables, and other staples to my baked items. The orphanages come and collect the food, which now feeds over 100 children. They are desperate and I cannot let them or my employees down,” explains Matlhogonolo. 

Mariam Cassim, Chief Executive Officer of Vodacom Financial Services says, “We recognise the financial challenges that SMEs faced in the current economy and we are committed to providing solutions to their needs. During this lockdown period, we have put our focus on supporting essential services businesses throughout South Africa.” 

Support from VodaLend extends beyond just loans. Mariam says, “Many businesses struggle to navigate the complex financial environment in which they operate. They need assistance with financial literacy, financial planning, legal backing, and effective money management. The under-serviced small business market is full of potential and allows innovative funders, who are able to tailor business-specific solutions, to help these companies reach their full potential.” 

Matlhogonolo is confident that her company will survive COVID-19. “We’re already starting to work with Vodacom in the contactless QR payment and e-commerce space and planning for a new environment past the virus. This is making us stronger and more resilient. Even now we are working a couple of days a week to keep up with demand and our productivity levels are improving.” 

“We are proud of Matlhogonolo and her team,” says Mariam. “This is a perfect example of what we at Vodacom Financial Services are trying to do: identify, financially support, and assist small businesses with a range of needs. This sector of the economy is crucial to the success of South Africa and we believe we are playing an important role.”   

 

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