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Seda launches Belgian Entrepreneurs Day 

JOHANNESBURG - 15 October: The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), in partnership with the Department of Trade & Industry (dti), will host the first Entrepreneurs Day based on a successful Belgian model in Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape on the 22nd of October 2008 from 08h00 to 18h00.  All the dti agencies and other organizations providing services to small businesses will exhibit and consult, including SAMAF, Khula, NEF, CIPRO, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Absa, FNB and Standard Bank. Entry at Entrepreneurs Day will be free of charge to all emerging entrepreneurs.

Cocktail and networking parties to launch the event will take place at all the exhibition venues on the 21st of October.  The speakers at the cocktail party in Gauteng will include the dti deputy minister Elizabeth Thabethe, mayor of Tshwane Dr Gwen Ramokgopa and the newly appointed acting Seda CEO, Hlonela Lupuwana.

The Belgian event on which Entrepreneurs Day is based, called Starters Day, is hosted annually in 5 regions in Belgium by Unizo, the Chamber of Business. The aim of the event is to reach mainly pre-start up as well as existing enterprises that have been in operation for less than two years, providing information, advice and networking opportunities. "The results from our European model, the Unizo Starters Day, are really exciting, with 60% of participants starting new businesses after the event. Our challenge is to make this happen with our own Entrepreneur’s Day in South Africa," says Lupuwana.

Lupuwana identifies one of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs today as access to relevant business information and support resources to help them to respond effectively to identified opportunities. "At Entrepreneurs Day, entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs in all three provinces, from a welder in Gauteng to an IT whizzkid in Limpopo to a B&B owner in the Western Cape, will have access to the best small business services all under one roof," says Lupuwana. "These services range from practical business registration services to detailed advice on co-operatives and export."

Exhibition attendees will receive an Entrepreneurs Day bag to fill with relevant information brochures from the service providers. There will be a Network Café where attendees will have the opportunity to network and share ideas with business experts and fellow entrepreneurs. The Speakers Corner will feature DVDs detailing the available services. Seda business advisors will also be at the exhibition to provide free business advice to potential and new entrepreneurs at the event.

Lupuwana says that the demand for information and advice on how to start a small business continues to grow at all national Seda branches, making the Belgian 'Starters Day' model a good fit. "The information and methodologies for this phase can be fairly standardized, which enables us to deal with larger groups entrepreneurs in the pre-startup and start-up phase through group initiatives such as Entrepreneurs Day. We then move into one-on-one consulting and can continue to support them on an individual basis."

Lupuwana says that Seda will still firmly pursue partnerships with other agencies. "The main method that Seda will be using to increase its reach and impact is to work more closely with other agencies involved in small enterprise support – at local, district and provincial level.  We already have agreements with various provincial agencies and will further expand the approach to leverage the capacities and the competencies of our sister organizations. We will be partnering with them, while coordinating effectively to stop duplication."

"The various agencies involved are working together to provide entrepreneurs with a comprehensive menu of assistance, advice and information that will ensure that their fledgling businesses succeed. And we're here to make this menu accessible not just in Gauteng, but in communities in the provinces," says Lupuwana. "I'm excited to see this initiative succeed in Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape. We hope to soon grow it to a fully national annual event - a fertile garden where the seeds of entrepreneurship can grow."