Start-ups must embrace the Net
In SA, 80% of small businesses fail within their first four years of operation, yet SMEs are the strongest engines of job creation, accounting for 68% of employment.
GM of MWeb Connect, Carolyn Holgate's core focus is providing consumers and small businesses with reliable access to the Internet. As Global Entrepreneurship Week draws to a close, Holgate has a few tips for technology start-ups, focusing on the role the Internet plays in the success of small businesses.
Firstly, Holgate advises that small businesses need to be "online savvy".
"When it comes to launching a business, the Internet is your best friend," she says, adding that offerings such as free Web hosting, cloud solutions and social media have made it possible for small businesses and start-ups to compete in today's competitive marketplace. The Internet has also made it easier for start-ups to advertise and develop their brands without a big budget, says Holgate.
Secondly, Holgate stresses that small businesses should not spend too much time exploring online marketing avenues at the expense of their own Web sites, which she believes is at the core of any digital strategy. According to Holgate, once a Web site is up and running, businesses must remember to keep it fresh and relevant with new content, products and contact details.
"If you don't have a big budget, don't panic, there are uncapped Web site hosting packages out there that suit any budget. A lot of packages also offer free tools to allow you to create your own Web site," she says.
Acknowledging that small businesses lack the budgets enjoyed by their larger counterparts, Holgate advises that they use technology to stay connected. "VOIP is an affordable way for you to connect with people around the world and expand your business without leaving the office," Holgate says.
For Holgate, a cloud-based system is the best and most cost-effective option for small businesses looking to store large volumes of data. "You won't need your own server, which will save you money upfront and it is also convenient as you can upload and access your data from anywhere in the world - all you need is an Internet connection and an Internet-enabled device."
Finally, she suggests that, should small businesses wish to succeed in today's competitive ecosystem, they need to utilise the wealth of information that is available to them via the Internet. "Research and learn more about your competitors, find out about the latest trends in your industry and collect ideas that inspire you."