Train manufacturer Gibela has created a one-stop shop where budding entrepreneurs can access markets, professional counsel, business mentoring and funding, all in one place.

This, in an effort to grow the economy and increase the rate of youth employment in South Africa.

“But how can small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) thrive and create jobs when they are not equipped with the resources to help build successful businesses?” asked Justine Mogashoa, CEO of what is now known as the Gibela Business Incubator.

In response to her question, and to the growing rate of startup failures, Gibela Rail Transport Consortium partnered with the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) to create the Gibela Business Incubator.

“We were compelled to create a platform that could help entrepreneurs get off the ground, and we have set it up in a way that entrepreneurs can be assisted from a grassroots level,” says Ms Mogashoa.

The Gibela Business Incubator CEO Justine Mogashoa

“Sometimes we are approached by individuals who have good, viable business ideas but lack the resources to execute them. Other times, we deal with entrepreneurs with fully-fledged businesses that need help dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

“The incubator was established in 2019 but started operating in 2020. We had a rough start because of the global pandemic, but I’m happy to say that despite the challenges, we currently have a total of 150 clients accessing our business development services on a daily basis. We have managed to incubate 66 incubatees by the end of 2021/2022 financial year  and create 32 jobs across various industries in the past two years,” she says.

To achieve this, the Gibela Business Incubator made a concerted effort to prioritise the growth of the entrepreneurs by training them on the fundamentals of running a business; offering them accounting services and legal advice for incorporation and taxation issues; teaching them about ownership and employee option plan structures; and providing management coaching and mentorship.

The training sessions are open to the general public at no cost.

“When an entrepreneur comes to our incubator, they make use of a diagnostic tool called the GrowthWheel,” says Ms Mogashoa.

This resource is a simple checklist which helps the Business Incubator track progress, identify focus areas and define the decisions and actions the business should be working on.

“It is a 360-degree wheel that measures every metric in business, ranging from sales and finances to marketing and PR. This tool has really helped us identify the gaps in our clients’ businesses and provide them with the support they need to succeed,” she says.

Initially, when entrepreneurs approach the Gibela Business Incubator, the team uses this tool to help entrepreneurs understand their current state and what needs to be done for their businesses to become viable.

“In many of our assessments, we have found that some of the entrepreneurs operate in backrooms without business bank accounts, and they don’t have access to adequate distribution channels. They have the skills required to create products, but they lack the business acumen and networks to access wider markets,” she says.

“This is where the Gibela Business Incubator comes in.”

The incubator introduces businesses to networks that they otherwise would not have been able to have on their own. They provide access to the development finance institutions (DFIs) with a pipeline of fundable business models and prepare candidates (start-ups, SMMEs and cooperatives) with opportunities to pitch their business ventures to the DFls and banks. 

“This goes a long way in mitigating the risk of failure in the early stages of start-ups,” says Ms Mogashoa.

The first incubatees were accepted in January 2021; by the end of the financial year, the incubator had 68% youth in its portfolio and  they are 100% black-owned businesses. These participating SMMEs have generated R3.5 million rands in turnover over the past 22 months and have added 32 jobs.

The incubator continues to grow at a fast pace, and Ms Mogashoa says they are looking at offering more technical skills and creating a lasting impact in the surrounding communities.

About Gibela
Gibela was formed in 2013 as a black economic empowerment company. The Gibela Rail Transport Consortium is a venture between French rail company Alstom and South Africa’s Ubumbano Rail. Gibela has a R51-billion contract with the South African government to manufacture 600 trains for PRASA. The scope of the contract includes train maintenance, technical support and the manufacture and supply of spare parts. Today, state-of-the-art commuter trains are rolling off the production line at Gibela’s bespoke R1-billion factory in South Africa’s Ekurhuleni metropolis. In fulfilment of contractual obligations to PRASA, Gibela is training thousands of historically disadvantaged South Africans – mainly women – in technical skills for both Gibela and the manufacturing industry at large. Gibela continuously draws scores of South African companies, many of them black-owned start-ups, into its supply chain and works to improve the lives of people in its neighbouring communities.

Submitted by Flow Communications