Catherine Winjberg is the Founder of Fetola, a BDSP that partners with C4G. The company holds a firm view that the South African Enterprise Development ecosystem needs an industry structure for benchmarking, trending and highlighting insight that can be used by the industry at large to improve their respective programmes.

“We are big proponents of the independent data verifiable benchmarking process that C4G offers. The data generated provides Fetola, as well as other stakeholders in the ecosystem, insight that supports business growth, which will have an overall impact both nationally and internationally,” explains Winjberg.

An independent data-driven benchmarking process for the sector is essential to ensure that the journey of supporting entrepreneurs meets the national economic growth expectations, as well as produce business development success and job creation. The desired outcome of each element is SMME driven. . “As service providers, our role is highly transformational, which can make or break our clients’ success. We currently operate in a dynamic and fluid space where the factors we deal with daily tend to be moving targets,” Winjberg explains.

With roots firmly entrenched in entrepreneurship, Winjberg’s journey began during her childhood where her father was an entrepreneur in Zambia. After completing her schooling, she pursued a number of studies, which culminated in her obtaining her Masters in Agriculture. This exposed her to a number of roles, including that of being an Agricultural Economist. Following her move to South Africa, her 15-year journey of entrepreneurship began, focussing on the fields of imports and exports. “My decision to establish Fetola is rooted in my exposure to a variety of entrepreneurial ventures. I was at a point in my life where I needed a role where I could put my expertise and experience to use while making a much-needed difference in South Africa’s entrepreneurial sector,” reflects Winjberg.

The strength and differentiation factor of Fetola is ‘sector agnostic’, driven by an in-depth understanding of business irrespective of the sector. “As an organisation, our key differentiating factor is understanding the fundamentals of success with a broad knowledge of the nuances across most sectors,” explains Winjberg.

The philosophy is that ‘a theorist can’t teach business’. Therefore, actual business experience is vital in supporting entrepreneurs. “This is especially the case in an environment where more than 80% of entrepreneurs will fail. For a country that spends billions to boost entrepreneurship, it is essential that the work done by Fetola and industry equivalents, contribute to SMMEs succeeding,” remarks Winjberg.

Determination, as opposed to the gender factor, is the to driving force behind entrepreneurship. “As an entrepreneur, I never really paid attention to issues of gender, as I believed that I only needed to focus on my abilities and talents. However, in reality, there are challenges facing women, in terms of culture, particularly for breadwinners that have obligations over and above their role in business. Our programme addresses such socio-cultural challenges, through encouraging peer support. My advice to entrepreneurs, both men and women, is: ‘Just get on with it and do it, keep your eye on the end goal, be kind to yourself and remain true to who you are as well as your purpose at all times’,” motivates Winjberg.

Government policies often have unintended consequences for SMMEs and in effect hinder their growth potential. Winjberg expands: “Sometimes legislation can be practically challenging for SMMEs. For example, having a CCMA case often requires a business to spend both time and money, which would be better spent driving the business. In effect, there should be practical interventions like legal support, to make the process less burdensome for SMMEs. Although it is important to protect workers, unlike that of large corporates, the playing field is not level for SMMEs, as the majority of cases result in significant business interruptions and losses.”

In conclusion, Winjberg’s view is that most entrepreneurs are social entrepreneurs who want to use their success in business to address the social challenges, such as unemployment. “I am encouraged by the success of women who are entrepreneurs. At Fetola we will continue to support them, as well as their male counterparts, to ensure their long-term success and the economic growth of our country.