While South Africa continues to make significant strides towards building a more equitable society, much still needs to be done to fast-track female entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of business. And with National Women’s Day fast approaching, Andrew Maren, CEO: Ecsponent Development Fund believes now is the time to provide better support for women-owned start-up businesses.


“While the public sector priorities female business ownership, the same cannot be said of the private sector. This is particularly evident when it comes to start-ups. In fact, the Seed Academy’s 2016 Start-Up Survey results indicate that only one in every three entrepreneurs is female.


“To reach an equilibrium around gender empowerment,” Maren says, “businesses must implement measures that promote and support women entrepreneurs. These measures need the same focus, attention and incentives as B-BEE initiatives.”


For Maren, another challenge is changing the view around the perceived challenges facing female business owners.


“Generally speaking, many women have been affected by the corporate glass ceiling and anticipate the same as an entrepreneur. And the higher the perceived glass ceiling, the less likely women are to risk starting a business,” he says.


Another way in which Maren believes women will be encouraged to go the start-up route, is to create greater awareness around the growing number of finance and support solutions available to entrepreneurs.


“There is a growing number of alternative finance solutions and business incubators that support and upskill potential entrepreneurs. With this support, female entrepreneurs with great business concepts have greater chance of success than ever.


“Business incubators continue to play an invaluable role in growing SMME businesses. Additionally, more entrepreneurs can access funding through new breeds of finance solutions. For example, some of these financiers consider transactional risk in their financing decisions, and exclude the criteria that traditional financial institutions usually consider, such as collateral and credit history. With less onerous requirements, more entrepreneurs will be able to access funding and see their ideas come to life.


“Often, a passionate entrepreneur with a great idea or solution just needs some support to begin their business journey. We simply have to make more female entrepreneurs aware of the available support opportunities.” he concludes.