Bandwidth Barn bridge skills gap with enterprise development programme

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Vital new blood has entered the Cape economy with the graduation of 15 extraordinary new ventures from the intensive enterprise development programme of Cape IT initiative (CITi) subsidiary Bandwidth Barn.

Programme organiser PeerPower says while entrepreneurs are not in short supply in South Africa, business skills are at a dire shortage. Mignon Keyser, director and course facilitator, says VeloCITI bridges the gap by targeting start-ups that have been trading for a short while.

โ€œWe offer a comprehensive business development programme that gives entrepreneurs the business skills to cope with the challenges and opportunities theyโ€™ll encounter.โ€ Keyser says recruitment has already begun for the 2010/11 programme, which will be known as VeloCITIafter running as Accel for the past 10 months.

The difference

Six entrepreneurs that have been under PeerPowerโ€™s tutelage have gone on to win sought-after awards, such as the Cape Times/KPMG Editorโ€™s Award, VeloCITI Award and SAB Kickstart Award, says Keyser.

The VeloCITI programme leverages this expertise to offer a strong strategic approach, says Keyser. โ€œEntrepreneurs get valuable input from industry experts that they can apply in real-life scenarios in workshops, using examples from their own business.โ€

The course also offers a peer forum in which participants hold each other accountable for implementing lessons correctly. โ€œItโ€™s an action learning model,โ€ Keyser explains. โ€œIt goes far beyond training, giving participants a space to reflect on what their knowledge means in practice.โ€

Star pupils

In the past year, the following five entrepreneurs stood out, but all 15 participants that made it through the programme have made tremendous progress, says Keyser.

Infointeg, co-founded in 2009 by serial entrepreneur Shana Kay, is an online information verification provider. โ€œThe course allowed us to share our business challenges and get feedback,โ€ says Kay. โ€œThese kinds of programmes are essential; only other entrepreneurs can truly understand how to grow a business from an idea.โ€

www.capetownkids.co.za offers an online directory and printed map of family-friendly places to eat, play, shop and stay, in and around Cape Town. Founder Eli Alperstein says the course caused her to grow up as a businesswoman. โ€œMy accountability to my business in everything I do was brought home to me.โ€

Xedge Technologies builds Web-delivered software. Alessio Harri, chief executive officer, says the programme taught him to think like a business owner, rather than a programmer. โ€œI discovered my unique selling points and learned, among other things, that my business model had to change from service-based to product-based, to allow it to scale.โ€

The Windowsis an outsourced IT department for small and medium-sized businesses. Mark Johns, director, says the difference of the programme was evident in many ways touching on the financial, marketing and business process aspects of running a business. โ€œPeerPower gave us the tools that directly contributed to us turning a loss by mid-2009 into a profit by financial year-end.โ€

Stickmen is a website developer whose websites leverage powerful content management systems with advanced CMS, CRM, e-marketing and reporting functionality. Jeannine Buest, account director, says the programme helped her gain clarity about her business. โ€œThey pushed us to make hard decisions and gave us the tools to handle marketing, sales and finance.

Success breeds success

Keyser says a good intake of new programme candidates is vital not just to the programmeโ€™s future success, but also that of the entire ICT industry and economy of the Cape. โ€œThe more successful the programme is, the more support it will attract and boost emerging business in the Cape and the regionโ€™s economy. Start-ups are a very important source of employment.

โ€œWe invite the good and the great ideas out there that have made it into full-time ventures. The difference VeloCITI can make to their businesses is enormous.โ€

Interested parties can visit http://www.bandwidthbarn.org/ to apply.

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