The Business Support Centre does not usually bask in the reflected glory of its small business successes, but makes an exception in the case of Noluthando Poswa. Appointed as the first manager of the BSC in 1996, Noluthando helped to establish a sound foundation for the organization before embarking on a varied career in energy and mining.
Getting BSC off on a sound footing
Noluthando Mokone, (nee Poswa) radiates a powerful matriarchal aura that no doubt stood her in good stead during the formative years of the Business Support Centre (BSC) and later, during a diverse career.
Vivacious, charismatic and engaging, Noluthando was the ideal candidate to head up the nascent BSC in 1996. As it turned out, she played a formative role in developing its scope and reach in a developmental space that was poorly served.
“SMME development has always been close to my heart and my experience at the former Transkei Small Development Corporation stood me in good stead,” she said.
Looking back to where the BSC comes from, she narrates: “BSC was amongst the first accredited Local Business Support Centres (LBSC) by Ntsika (a DTI Initiative) which evolved over the years and is now known as Small Enterprise Development Agency(SEDA),” she said. “The BSC received some funding support from Ntsika based on meeting agreed Key Performance Areas (KPAs) in the areas of business registrations, training, mentorship and business advice services,” she said.
Mokone said BSC was also in the first lot of accredited tender advice centres in South Africa.
“This meant that it was qualified to advise its clients on tender processes, advertise tenders, train and assist clients to fill out tender documents. This was a new era in SA, as it was that tenders were for the first time being decentralised by the new government. “This initiative was driven by the then-Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, ‘Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka. She, after enquiring from Ntsika which LBSC and Tender Advice programmes were most effective in South Africa, was advised that the best one was the one in Pietermaritzburg. She subsequently flew from Pretoria to meet with Noluthando. During her visit in Pietermaritzburg, the BSC also organised an event for her to address the business community of Pietermaritzburg, an event that was attended by many people.
“Over the years, the BSC mentored some of the prominent and successful business people today. These include the mayor of Greytown and businessman Philani Mavundla who recently built a section of King Shaka Airport, Tyran Barnwell, Ntozo Gumede, a successful crafter who is exporting her work to international markets; and many others.”
“Amongst other key people that mentored me,” recalls Noluthando, “were Hulamin’s Des Winship – who embraced and understood the SMME Transformation agenda and encouraged his business peers to play an active role in this sector; the Department of Economic Development (SMME Desk) headed by Thulani Mdadane, now a director at the Department of Works; Somta’s CEO Kevin Burger – who taught me a lot about character and decision-making when ones heads up an organisation, Umngeni Water CEO John Allan – who emphasized a need for growth for the BSC, and many others”
“In 1998, the BSC board sent me to Ghana to study one of the successful international SMME models as was rolled out by an organisation called EMPRETEC.” This programme was an eye opener for me and spurred me on to ensure that systems and structures were in place in order to create a successful and suitable organisation.”
The BSC has certainly grown from the critical role it played during its formative years. The emphasis then was on start-ups such as business registrations, training, and tender advice. BSC, has over the years, evolved significantly and now focuses on enterprise development services that are aimed at helping the corporates to proactively develop SMMEs as part of their supply chain as suppliers or customers