Small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) are the lifeblood of our economy, and each of us can play a role in boosting our local economy this festive season by supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs.
If ever there was a time when our economy needed a lift it is now – with the effects of such a boost being to the benefit of all South Africans. SMMEs contribute almost 40% of South Africa’s GDP and employ about 60% of the country’s workforce, with the national development plan predicting that 90% of all new jobs will be within the SMME sector by 2030. Recent research reveals that 74% of South African entrepreneurs launched their business to have a positive impact on society, even though they face significant challenges and risks.
Pre-industrial revolution, cottage industries and small personalised businesses thrived. However, following the advent of the mechanised factory system, small businesses were eliminated as customers chose to buy goods that were conveniently mass-produced. The present-day return to unique, home-grown and more personalised products and services bodes well for local entrepreneurship, and this movement should be strongly supported.
With consumers being more aware and informed about their health, more and more people are actively seeking out organic and pesticide-free food options with no chemicals and additives. Similarly, the impersonal and bureaucratic style of services offered by large corporates is driving customers to seek out more intimate, tailor-made services from small businesses with a more local and intimate touch.
This festive season provides us with the perfect opportunity to use our rands to support local and grow a more robust, vibrant ecosystem in which entrepreneurs can thrive because the reality is that it benefits us all in the medium- to long-term. Let’s challenge ourselves to actively seek out small and micro-businesses when shopping for goods and services over the holiday period. By intentionally supporting SMMEs, we inadvertently give others the confidence to pursue their business ideas and bolster entrepreneurship in others where it may have been lying untapped.
Every small purchase we make or service we employ from a local business adds to our community, creates more jobs and offers financial security to more South Africans. It opens the door for more ideas and greater creativity, with the overall result being a more stimulated local economy with higher employment, increased wages, better savings culture, reduced poverty, enhanced tourism and less crime.
Importantly, when we support local businesses as opposed to large retailers and chain stores, more money remains in the community and is used by locals to spend in that same community – thereby creating more vibrant towns and platforms for trade. Further, because local business owners tend to be more personally invested in their businesses, clients generally experience less red tape, easier access to customer care and more personalised service.
The internet and social media have made it easier than ever before to actively seek out local products and services, most of which include online shopping and delivery capabilities. In addition, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to local markets and gatherings where microentrepreneurs showcase their goods and products. Some ideas for spending your rands to boost our local economy this festive season include:
- Craft markets: Local craft markets and food fairs are excellent places to buy an array of Christmas presents for a broad range of people. Goods such as preserved foods, homeware, potted plants, clothing, pet accessories and furniture make brilliant gifts catering for all levels of affordability.
- Small breweries and winemakers: Local breweries and winemakers throughout South Africa provide fabulous ranges of beers, gins and wines which make excellent gifts.
- Vouchers for hair salons, beauty salons and massage parlours: Instead of using large retail outlets, consider supporting your local hairdressing and beauty salons, with vouchers for treatments making excellent gifts that can be tailormade to suit your budget.
- Slow food and organic food markets: These markets offer a super assortment of organic, free-range and pesticide-free food options including chocolates, honey, jams, preserves, baked goods, potted herbs and other homemade goods catering for a full range of dietary needs.
- Small tourism operators: Instead of using large hotel chains and tour operation companies, consider using the smaller players in the tourism industry for your accommodation and travel needs, including local guest houses, Airbnb, small tour guide operations and travel agents.
- Roadside crafters and furniture makers: South African roadsides are inundated with informal traders who sell exquisite handcrafted goods including furniture, woven products, carved art and beaded jewellery. These make for excellent presents with a truly African touch.
- Local jewellery: Rather than purchasing jewellery at large fashion outlets, actively seek out local jewellers who can custom-make bespoke jewellery that is both unique and affordable.
- Small restaurants: When entertaining this festive season, make an effort to support small restaurants, coffee shops and pubs rather than eating at large chain restaurants. If ordering take-away meals, seek out caterers in your community that prepare healthy, homemade meals with delivery options.
- Local artists and photographs: We have so many up-and-coming artists and photographers trying to gain exposure and make a name for themselves. Pay a visit to the small galleries and art exhibitions and help a local artist by buying a piece of their artwork.
- Local authors: All major bookstores stock our local authors and if you intend buying a book as a gift this Christmas, spend some time looking through the South African authors’ section of the store.
When purchasing from a small or micro business, bear in mind that cash flow is usually tight and profit margins slim. Refrain from asking for discounts or bargaining with entrepreneurs for a better price. If ordering goods or services from a small business, ensure that you pay on time and in full. If you are satisfied with their goods or services, be intentional about passing on word-of-mouth referrals. Even better, if the business uses social media, take a few minutes out of your day to write an online review. Like, share, tag and pay it forward.
Choosing to support a local business or SMME not only helps to boost the economy but is a nod of acknowledgement for the risks and challenges the business owner has taken along their journey, and a vote of confidence in their offering.