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Disruptive times call for an innovative funding platform, says Old Mutual

Article provided by Old Mutual

Afrobotanics co-founder talks about how SMEgo funded their growth

Cash flow is one of the biggest challenges for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around the world, and South Africa is no different. The global pandemic exposed this in devastating fashion, with many shutting their doors and others being squeezed to their limits because they simply didn’t have access to funding. For this reason, Old Mutual Corporate has powered SMEgo – a simple, easy-to-use online portal that allows SMEs to apply for funding in three effortless steps. 

According to Nobesuthu Ndlovu, Director SME: Old Mutual Corporate, the pandemic created an acute liquidity crisis for small businesses in South Africa. “Cash is the lifeblood of a business. A few days without an income can cripple, if not destroy, a small business,” she says, which is tragic considering that the health of SMEs is vital for the long-term prosperity of the country’s economy.

Beyond the difficulties created by the ongoing pandemic, she says businesses need funds to grow, and without access to this they can run into trouble very quickly or miss out on an opportunity to scale. “It’s vital to be able to access funds to either fill a pressing cash-flow gap or deliver on a market opportunity – cash flow is like blood flow for SMEs.

SMEgo is an online portal where a business can apply for different types of funding in three easy steps, without burdensome paperwork. Only one application form needs to be completed online which is then applied to various types of funding options available from several different funders. “One of the strengths of the platform is that a business only needs to upload documents once. The process is fast, flexible and they can track and check their progress online,” she says.

Ntombenhle Khathwane, founder of Afrobotanics which manufactures natural hair, baby, body and eco-friendly home products, says that her business was introduced to SMEgo at just the right time to fund their growth at a time when a large beauty retailer opportunity was knocking on the door.

“Our business is about using African botanicals to celebrate our culture and values as Africans through the products that we sell. We have a big vision: we want to be the Unilever of Africa. We got to a point where we were experiencing increased demand and increased growth, and as a brand our presence was growing. We then had an opportunity to get into a major beauty retailer that I had been trying to get into for years, and needed funding as soon as possible,” she explains.

Khathwane explains that she learnt early on that applying for finance comes with a number of challenges, such as credit checks and other requirements, but that the complication and time it took to process applications were perhaps the biggest obstacles for a fast-moving business.

“A friend, who is also an entrepreneur pointed me to SMEgo when I complained that the traditional developmental funding institutions were dead slow. I thought banks were faster in comparison, but SMEgo was superfast,” she says.

“They understand that entrepreneurs are always on the go, so to speak. It’s an extremely easy platform to use, there’s a one-page application – it took less than 10 minutes. Once you submit the application you have an opportunity to go through the funders on the platform and say which you’d be most interested in working with. The ones I chose immediately reached out with requirements they wanted me to send through. It was extremely easy and very quick.  You can tell this was platform created by people who understand the entrepreneurship space.

“When you run a business, particularly one where you manufacture and supply, you will run into a cash-flow crunch at some point. A platform like SMEgo keeps your business growing. This opportunity funded our growth,” says Khathwane.

Ndlovu says that beyond the speed and convenience of the platform, it is also important to understand that no two circumstances are the same, which is why businesses need to be able to access different funding types depending on their unique set of circumstances.

“The platform enables small businesses to apply for diverse products such as asset finance, invoice factoring, and merchant cash advances. Whether they need to fulfil a large shipment, or scale operations to facilitate longer-term growth, the platform was designed to give SMEs the funding support they so desperately need,” she says.

Old Mutual is a proud Partner of the NSBC