In 2017, Carole Rowsell, our Chair, introduced us to various South African Rotarians. We shared our concept of holding an annual Building Better Businesses Symposium to provide a forum for small business owners to find financing, marketing, mentoring, accounting, and other skills and networking opportunities. South African Rotarians embraced the concept and introduced us to the University of South Africa (UNISA) and others as co-sponsors.
We held our first Symposium in September 2018, bringing together 135 small business owners to be coached by experienced speaker-facilitators on topics such as Spotting an Opportunity, Finding the Capital, Sustaining a Business, and Growing/Scaling Up the Business. Participants were offered access to digital accounting programs, mentorship, and surplus office furniture. As well, there were cash prizes to reward businesses showing the strongest progress.
It was an unqualified success: “So practical and helpful… We all learned so much!”
We held three more Symposiums, the last in May, 2022, when it became evident that we needed to spread the burden of the work required amongst a broader group of volunteers.