SA entrepreneurs need your love this Valentine’s Day – they are creating jobs

Are we, as a society, showing enough appreciation to our local entrepreneurs, and expressing just how important they are to kick-starting South Africa’s sluggish economy? This is the questioned raised by Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners Limited.

In light of Valentine’s Day later this week, Mjadu says that South Africans should consider channeling some of their love towards family, friends and associates who have taken the inspiring leap into entrepreneurship. “While entrepreneurs should be acknowledged regularly for their efforts to society, they are often the unsung heroes of a country’s economic development and job creation.”

She points to the recently release Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2015 / 2016 Global Report which revealed that from the 60 economies surveyed in the report, on average, 68% of working-aged adults perceive entrepreneurs to hold a high status in their respective societies and 61% believe they receive positive attention in the media.

Mjadu says that given small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are a major contributor to job creation and economic growth, this percentage should be much higher.

“Societal attitudes indicate how entrepreneurship is regarded in an economy, and can, in turn, impact potential entrepreneurs’ ambitions in the future. This month of ‘love’ (February), as commercial as the day may be, offers the ideal opportunity to celebrate with an entrepreneur you may know, and provide the reassurance and acknowledgment that their hard work and contribution is appreciated and isn’t in vain. By doing this, we are ensuring that those around us, especially future generations, see entrepreneurship as an inspiring and celebrated career option.”

In an efficiency-driven economy such as South Africa, two thirds of working-aged adults perceive entrepreneurship as a good career choice. The 2015/2016 GEM Global report also revealed high societal values about entrepreneurs in South Africa as the country ranked 15th out of 60 economies in terms of the status given to entrepreneurs.

While these figures paint a positive picture, Mjadu says that more needs to be done to express and elevate entrepreneurs’ status in society. “Entrepreneurship in South Africa is still largely driven by necessity, rather than opportunity. We need to celebrate entrepreneurs more often in order to encourage entrepreneurship as a viable career option, rather than a fallback plan. This is one of the core reasons the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners Limited was launched originally as it serves as a platform to showcase entrepreneurs’ efforts and achievements.”

Mjadu however stresses that society at large can, and should, play a much larger – and daily role – in ensuring that entrepreneurs feel supported while pursuing this tough journey.

“Starting a business venture on your own can be difficult and lonely, but the love and support of those close to you make the challenges more bearable, which could be a determining factor between failure and success. So when you next visit your local supplier, friend, or family member who has started a business, give them a hug and thank them for their hard work and contribution to South Africa’s economy,” concludes Mjadu.

Make your appreciation public! This Valentine’s Day – post a photo on Twitter of you hugging an entrepreneur or proving your entrepreneurial love with the hashtag #HUGanEntrepreneur (@EOY_SA)