Empower yourself this Women’s Month

Too many South African women remain trapped in poverty and untenable situations, when there are a number of steps they could take to empower themselves and become financially independent.

For possibly hundreds of thousands of South African women, financial independence and their own small business seems like an unattainable dream. Trapped in poverty or untenable situations, many women with the potential to become small business owners fail to do so – mainly because of a lack of start-up funding.

But there are a number of ways to start a business without having to approach traditional lenders for large loans, says small business specialist Nokwazi Mzobe, Founder of Matoyana Business Solutions, author of the Small Business Handbook  and driver of the Fearless Women campaign.

Speaking at the start of Women’s Month in South Africa, Mzobe says many would-be women entrepreneurs still believe the only way to become empowered and start their own businesses is to start big, with significant funding. “This is simply not the case,” she says.

Start saving now

Even with very limited money available, women can start setting aside small savings in a dedicated 32-day account or money market account, she says. “It’s important for women to have their own personal bank accounts – for a rainy day, or potentially to start a small business. All banks offer a variety of savings products, and women should not be afraid to go in and enquire about a savings product that suits their needs, and delivers good returns.”

Start small

While you may have big long-term goals, your business need not start out big, says Mzobe. “In most cases, you don’t need a whole lot of money to start a business. You may find that the support and tools you need to get you started are available through friends and family. You might use someone’s old laptop, borrow a car or take advantage of free WiFi hotspots to get started, as I did, for example. There are many free business tools available online; and you can look to your community for support and advice to get up and running.” Mzobe cites, for example, a woman who took the initiative to invent her own ice lolly recipe and started selling lollies to local children from her home. The lollies have proven so popular that spaza shops in her area are now approaching her to supply their stores too.

Get community funding

Stokvels and crowdfunding offer an excellent solution to start-up funding challenges, says Mzobe.

Stokvels are an effective traditional method of purpose-driven saving, delivering better returns for the members than they could achieve alone. “Many South African women belong to stokvels, and they could look to stokvels for more than school fees or grocery savings – they could actually use them as a means to save start-up funds for their own businesses. What comes with them is a sense of community – you are saving money with people you know and identify with in an environment of trust,” she says.

Taking stokvels and community saving and funding into the digital age, crowdfunding and novel digital investment forums offer new ways to tap into the community for startup support, she notes.

“You don’t have to find one big investor – there are other ways. New platforms are taking traditional ways of doing things and making funding more accessible via the internet. Platforms such as Thundafund or even smaller initiatives through platforms like BackaBuddy are proving very successful in raising funds to empower and help people,” she says. “While supporters often do like to see a prototype or solid business need behind the new business plan, sometimes they support crowdfunding campaigns just to become part of the journey, or for philanthropic reasons.”

Women dreaming of empowering themselves through small business ownership need not wait – there are tools, support and even ways to secure funding available to them right now, says Mzobe. And there’s no better time to start building a financially independent future than during Women’s Month.

Nokwazi Mzobe will speak at the upcoming Small Business Expo in partnership with the Eskom Development Foundation, from 6 – 8 September at the Ticketpro Dome, on free and low-cost business tools available to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Online registration by 2 September is free, or R70 at the door, and visitors will benefit from free training in the Standard Bank Women in Business theatre, the Nedbank Money Matters theatre, Business Services theatre and the Eskom Powering your World theatres. Register today at www.smallbizexpo.co.za

About the Small Business Expo

The Small Business Expo, running alongside #BuyaBusiness Expo, is devoted to the development of small and medium sized enterprises, providing an invaluable platform for small businesses to market their businesses and interact with business leaders and corporate companies. This expo exposes visitors to a wide range of business models, incubation programmes, business contacts, speakers and other entrepreneurs who will engage them on starting or growing their business.

The Small Business Expo features numerous highlights, including free workshops and talks in the Nedbank Money Matters Theatre, Standard Bank Women in Business Theatre, Eskom Powering Your World theatre and Business Services theatre. Explore exhibits, visit the #BuyaBusiness Expo alongside, and explore new business opportunities.

The Small Business Expo is presented by Reed Exhibitions in partnership with the Eskom Development Foundation and its Business Investment Competition, and will be held from 6 – 8 September 2018 at the Ticketpro Dome, Northgate. The expo is supported by the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Minara Chamber of Commerce, and is endorsed by the Black Management Forum (BMF) and approved by AAXO.

How to choose a fund manager

During July (National Savings Month), much has been said and written about the importance of saving. As an individual investor, one of the key decisions you will have to make is choosing the right fund managers to achieve your savings’ objectives.

Prasheen Singh, director and consultant at RisCura, provides some crucial guidelines for everyday investors to keep in mind.


Look beyond the brand

Focus on what you want to achieve when you’re choosing a fund manager. It’s not only big brands that can deliver on what you need. However, if you choose a lesser known brand, make sure that the company has an established track record and is managed by reputable professionals.


Consider fees in context

Fees are an important factor when choosing a fund manager as any costs will inevitably be passed on to the end investor. The total fees should be determined on a risk/reward ratio. So, what does this mean? The lower the risk involved, the lower the fee should be. For example, a cash manager will have lower fees than an equities manager because the cash investment is inherently lower risk. When you are comparing fees, make sure you are comparing apples with apples when it comes to the level of risk involved.


Remember that fees are representative of the type of product and not the quality of the product. Higher fees are not an indicator of better quality in the investment world.

Importantly, make sure you understand the total fees of the funds you are considering. This should include adviser fees and all other related costs. Always ask whether there are any additional fees to be aware of, such as performance fees.



Diversification is one of the best ways to mitigate risk in the investment world. To diversify, you’ll need to invest in different types of asset classes such as cash, equities and bonds as well as different fund managers. How you structure this diversification will depend on your appetite for risk, which is largely dependent on your investment time frame. Generally speaking, the longer you’re planning to invest for, the more risk you can take on.


Do your own research

Given the wealth of information available today, you can do some of your own research.


Visit the fund managers’ websites and compare the fund fact sheets of the funds you’re considering. Ensure you understand the risk profile of the portfolio and the mix of asset classes. You also need to understand what is producing growth in the fund, i.e. how does the fund manager plan to achieve the return objectives of the fund? And, how consistently this has been achieved over time – not only in the last year or two. Some of this information may be too technical so you may need to speak to an independent financial advisor.


Be patient

Remember that it takes time for a fund to achieve its objectives – typically between three to five years. There will be periods when the fund’s strategy is out of favour, and that’s ok. You need to consider it in a long-term context and understand how and why the strategy that is out of favour today can make a comeback in a few years’ time. Don’t make your decision based on who has won the most awards recently, as these are based on short-term performance. However, if a fund manager has consistently won awards over an extended time period, that may be worth paying attention to.


Expect clarity and understanding

Be careful of products that are opaque, where you don’t understand the strategy or how they aim to achieve their objectives. Good fund managers should be able to explain their approach and how they intend to achieve their objectives in a manner that makes sense, even to a novice investor.