In 2010, a group comprising 16 unemployed residents of Thaba Nchu in the Free State decided to change their destiny by embarking on a self-employment path. The first step was to register a cooperative as an operating vehicle, and the A Retshwaraneng Catering and Multi- Purpose Co-operative was born. The second step – and the most difficult – was to seek business opportunities to start generating an income for the venture. Given that all the members of the co-operative were unemployed, the venture was expected to seek opportunities that will enable the members to be employed and draw a salary. The co-operative started a jewellery beading project to get its activities off the ground. Another opportunity that was identified was providing cleaning and catering to local schools.
As the co-operative was gaining momentum and finding more business opportunities to pursue, an administrative headache was also rearing its head. The co-operative member realized that to be successful, they would have to get some business management basics in place. Seda was approached to assist with the following areas:
Basic business management training
Financial management skills
Initiate corporate identity development
Seda facilitated that A Retshwaraneng cooperative members received training on the basics of business administration and entrepreneurship. A financial management mentorship and advisory was also offered to assist with planning, budgeting and cash flow management in the business.
A New corporate identity and marketing material were developed to help promote the cooperative and its services to new clients.
With the help of a R324 000 grant from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Cooperative Incentive Scheme, the co-operative started a new poultry farming activity. The operations of the co-operative are also in a far more stable position today with suitable administrative systems in place, and members better trained to handle its day-to-day management.
Business offerings have also increased with about six schools now being serviced with cleaning and pupil feeding scheme programmes.
Whilst the catering business has now started servicing some government departments around Thaba Nchu.
The co-operative might not be employing all its initial 16 founding members on a full time basis today, however, 7 full time staff members (it will be 9 after the poultry project is up and running shortly) currently look after its various business commitments. The financial position has also improved considerable with revenue rising from the miserable R5 000 a few years ago to more than R700 000.
“Seda found us with nothing, and helped us to where we are today with their continued guidance and support,” said one of the founders.