The Domino Foundation – empowering small and micro enterprises in a time of crisis.
The late business magnate, Steve Jobs, said: It’s not the tools you have faith in. Tools are just tools … they work or they don’t work. It’s the people you have faith in or not.
After several years of upskilling small businesses through its Enterprise Development programme, The Domino Foundation realised it had a powerful tool to meet critical needs exposed by the civil unrest of last July. Small and micro enterprises (SMEs) were unable to operate and desperately needed assistance to resume trading. Domino partnered with its sustainability arm, Domino Business Development, to adapt its programme in line with the latter’s Khulisa Business Development programme for SME development to meet the contingency.
Domino’s CEO, Shaun Tait, spoke of working with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, VumaFM and Tencent Africa to support SMEs impacted by the looting. “Domino Business built the business-recovery model. Through assessments, site visits, mentor-coaching sessions and financial grants, our goal was to get businesses trading as quickly as possible.”
The adapted Khulisa SME Relief programme worked through leads from the community and other NPOs working in affected communities. Ten businesses ranging from spazas to an IT training and internet cafe were identified as potential recipients of grants of between R20 000 and R50 000.
A referral process arranged pre and on-site assessment. Domino Business’ Mickey Wilkins explained the businesses were validated as legitimate enterprises, and the damage done and what was needed to get them trading again as soon as possible were assessed. The owners signed validations of the findings, timeline confirmations and what the grant would be spent on. All required documentation was collected.
Funds were released in two tranches. The first, the larger of the two, permitted the business to start re-establishing itself. With invoices paid, stock ordered and security put in place, the second tranche was released. Follow- up site visits confirmed agreed-upon repairs had been completed. Mentoring sessions and three-month and six-month surveys were done to ensure ongoing trading and development.
Conversations revealed recurring key themes and gaps and that ongoing mentorship and a development programme would help businesses to thrive. Some asset-rich businesses were located in high-risk areas, often meaning they were uninsurable, while some owners had little understanding of how insurance works. Domino’s business-training workshops provided relevant information, network-support bases and contacts.
The SME programme was expanded into 10-weeks of coaching/mentoring with specifically developed videos and specialised think-tank input-sessions with professionals. At a review session, steps to be taken were drawn up, emphasising grant-income-generation and investment. After a final mentoring session, the entrepreneur had a clear plan for building their business going forward. A series of workbooks, The Entrepreneur’s Journey, was developed for the entrepreneurs to reflect and update on the changes to their businesses.
Mindsets and the ability to pivot were critical in the process. “Business as usual” was not going to work. Through the mentoring, owners rose to new levels of entrepreneurship, identifying weak or unsustainable business operations, jettisoning muddled business practices, unclear understanding of target markets, and unhelpful branding.
At the end of 2021, Old Mutual contacted the Durban Chamber of Commerce about the group’s support grants project. With Shaun chairing DCC’s NPO forum, Domino’s relationship with the Chamber was strong. The DCC was aware of businesses still struggling well after the unrest. Old Mutual awarded grants to eight businesses to enable them to recover from the damage.
Many of Steve Jobs’ “tools” had been supplied and the immediate needs of the businesses met. Domino was aware the violence had severely traumatised entrepreneurs. Healthy business practices needed to be bolstered with healthy states of mind. Old Mutual added trauma-assessment to the process and owners attended workshops run by the Centre for Mental Wellness. Before payment of the second tranche of the grants, the Centre ran a three-day trauma-processing workshop dealing with trauma’s personal and business impact on entrepreneurs.
The Domino Foundation and Domino Business are keen to link with other partners to extend the project so more SMEs can re-establish themselves and come back far better-equipped to face the future.
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