Waitresses moving up

Date: January 1, 1970
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Two former Primi Piatti Restaurant servers are moving up in the business world, opening up their own franchise. Owned by Debbi Coetzee, 30, and Natasha Machado, 28, the Midrand Primi Piatti franchise is the first to be owned by women.

Financed by the Business Partners Women’s Fund, Coetzee and Machado first had difficulties convincing banks and other financial institutions to fund them. Coetzee revealed, “We used to work for Primi Piatti in Cape Town as waitresses. We later thought of buying the Primi franchise, but had difficulties with finances because banks were reluctant to fund us.  They gave reasons that we were young and inexperienced.”
Coetzee added that the banks wanted security, which unfortunately they did not have.
In December 2005, they talked to their head office, which liaised with Business Partners Women’s Fund.”
According to Fund Manager, Katja Naumann, their mandate is to help women own and grow their businesses.  “We want women to break out of the micro sector into the medium sector. As long as they are not afraid of taking risks and have good business plans and ideas that are feasible, we are ready to finance them,” she said.
On risks they take to finance women’s businesses, Naumann said they ensure entrepreneurs are fully mentored and due diligence done, before financing businesses.
“We ensure that before they are financed, entrepreneurs are interviewed and mentored to know if they are capable of running businesses,” she said. “We have about 600 professional mentors to do market research and mentoring for entrepreneurial growth. We also have lawyers and excellent accountants.”
Coetzee and Machado explained that they strive for a majority percentage of women employees, but have some problems attracting women staff members. Of 46 employees, 60 percent are currently men and 40 percent women.
Asked about prospects of growing their business, Coetzee said, “we are growing and we want to expand our business. We don’t hope to request for more funding because our income is enough to expand the business.”
Business Partners Women’s Fund has funded about 2014 businesses. Naumann said, “We have about R200 million put aside for women to start and grow their businesses. We are the only venture capital for women in Africa. Business Partners Women’s Fund finances every South African woman regardless of colour and race. We look at what is fair for the entrepreneur and risks we are taking.”
According to Naumann, Business Partners Women’s Fund is a public company that is not listed on the stock exchange. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) holds 20 percent of shares in Business Partners. “We have various banks and insurance companies as partners. We take money of these shareholders and invest it in businesses under four specialist funds; tourism, women’s fund, empowerment fund, property fund and fishing,” she added.
Nauman pointed out that the reason why banks refuse to fund women is because most do not have collateral or security. She revealed that with Business Partners Women’s Fund they do not need collateral or security. “We need to be rewarded through shareholding in the company or royalties, say, half a percent of turnover, she said. “If the business collapses we have nothing to take from it.”
Statistics indicate that female entrepreneurs are fast becoming significant contributors to the South African economy as business owners and job creators. The Business Partners Women’s Fund is helping them through finance and mentoring. By dedicating a fund that assists women entrepreneurs to own and grow their own small and medium businesses, Business Partners wants to unlock economic growth and empower women.
Simon Chedza is a journalist at The Voice newspaper in Botswana. This article, produced during a GL “Business Unusual” training workshop, is part of a South Africa Women’s Day series by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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