Pioneering women-led SMMEs
August is a time to celebrate the contributions women make to South African society – and an opportunity to highlight positive initiatives that help advance their social and economic status. In the business world, this includes breaking down barriers to allow female entrepreneurship to flourish.
Despite clear evidence that women’s economic empowerment is key to inclusive growth and job creation, they remain under-represented in the entrepreneurial space, particularly in sectors like manufacturing.
The Beier Group believes we have an important role to play in changing this status quo. To unlock the full potential of women in the South African economy, we’re focused on providing opportunities for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), particularly those led by black female entrepreneurs, and creating the right conditions for them to thrive.
A force for growth
The manufacturing industry is one of the biggest drivers of GDP growth, and it holds significant potential for small businesses. To tap into this potential, however, SMMEs need help overcoming the challenges that affect their ability to grow and become sustainable, such as bridging skills gaps and gaining access to capital and new markets.
With over 90 years of experience and technical expertise behind us, Beier is uniquely positioned to understand the demands on small manufacturers and the markets for their products. As part of our Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) efforts, we’ve partnered with Silokotho, a black woman-led sewing co-operative that produces polypropylene bags for Beier Envirotec, a leading producer of technical textiles, specialised media and filtration products in Southern Africa.
In order to truly empower Silokotho, our partnership had to become much more than just an ESD compliance exercise. This is why we’re committed to unlocking new opportunities for the business, and ensuring adequate knowledge transfer to help improve its production capacity and maximise its competitiveness. Beier is also helping Silokotho gain access to new markets by introducing it to other suppliers and sponsoring it into local small business exhibitions.
Through Silokotho’s steady upward trajectory, we’ve seen first-hand evidence of the power of SMMEs to revitalise local economies, and make a positive impact in their communities. The owner-operator of Silokotho, Thandazile Gqwaru, has been able channel her profits not only into employing more women and youth, but also to run an orphan-care programme.
Better for business
Our highly strategic approach to sourcing is the key to retaining our position as a competitive producer while achieving world-class quality – and we believe that sourcing locally where possible benefits business, our communities and South Africa’s sustainable growth.
Recognising the quality of our home-grown textiles, we now source our wool from a fully black woman-owned SMME based in the Eastern Cape. The Beier Group has supported this initiative with both technical advice and commercial orders since 2015, allowing us to completely replace imported wool with local wool.
The benefits of a shorter, domestic supply chain extend far beyond the ability to deliver a quality product at competitive prices. Proximity translates into more control, improved certainty around delivery, and easier collaboration and supplier development. Crucially, it also advances economic opportunities within local communities.
Our wool supplier endeavours to source as much of her product as possible from emerging farmers in the province, driving job creation and transforming the lives of hundreds of families in the area.
The entrepreneurial ‘X factor’
At Beier, we recognise women have unique skills that set them apart as successful entrepreneurs in the male-dominated manufacturing space, including the ability to spot overlooked opportunities and create products to fill a market niche.
This was a driving force behind our partnership with ProAct Mining Solutions, a 100% black female-owned company that focuses on developing and manufacturing health, safety and hygiene supplies designed specifically for women.
The founder of ProAct, Caroline Luvhimbe, had already created a successful company by tapping into a neglected market need: personal protective clothing sized and styled with women in mind. What she needed to move her business into the future was the right partner – one who could provide effective guidance and support, as well as access to funding and new markets.
ProAct’s expertise and intimate knowledge of a niche market, in turn, have been invaluable to our BBF Safety Group member company, the largest manufacturer of safety footwear and personal protective equipment in the country. Joining forces allowed BBF to expand its own female-focused safety footwear brand, Sisi.
Our partnership with ProAct highlights the importance of making synergistic ESD choices to unlock maximum value for both our partners and the Beier Group. Partnerships based on mutual benefit result in sustainable, high-performing suppliers – and bring South Africa closer to bridging the gender gap within the manufacturing sector.