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eThekwini Furniture Cluster names business accelerator winners

Alifurn Outdoor Furniture Company was named the winner of the inaugural eThekwini Furniture Cluster Business Accelerator Programme for 2021, scooping a R20,000 cash prize.

Winner of Best Business Case, Tamsyn Ferreira of Alifurn Outdoor Living. Source: Supplied
Winner of Best Business Case, Tamsyn Ferreira of Alifurn Outdoor Living. Source: Supplied

In a contested field with five finalists, Tamsyn Ferreira of Alifurn Outdoor scooped the overall award for the Best Business Pitch. Runners up were Nqobile Mthembu of Mad Design Studio who was also announced as the Most Innovative Business, and Thuli Heshu from the Women’s Vision Primary Co-operative received the High Impact Award. Both runners up walked away with a R15,000 cash prize.

The 2021 Accelerator was opened to all KZN-based small, medium and micro businesses that are current or prospective manufacturers or service providers to the regional furniture sector. Its primary focus has been to link innovative products and services such as packaging, raw materials, componentry, technology and furniture to larger markets. The accelerator has achieved this by providing a platform for these smaller companies to showcase their goods to leading enterprises.

“The Business Accelerator is one of the vehicles we are using to bring about radical economic transformation in the regional furniture sector. Recognising the vital role thriving SMEs play in bolstering the recovery of the sector economy, the accelerator has helped us to identify and create additional partnerships for development with high potential small businesses and potential customers,” says EFC’s project manager, Paige Sherriff.

“Small business owners often face challenges with market access and exposure to networking opportunities. The EFC is therefore creating programmes such as the accelerator to facilitate this direct dialogue, giving high-potential SMEs a unique platform in which they can pitch their innovative ideas to potential buyers and thus unlock their growth potential,” she adds.

Insight from furniture retail experts

Eight shortlisted companies participated in the first day of the accelerator for a one-day capacity building workshop held in Durban on Thursday, 4 November. Five finalists were selected to move onto the second round held on Tuesday, 16 November, where contestants had the opportunity to pitch their businesses to a 'Dragons’ Den' styled judging panel.

“Together with the eThekwini Municipality, our Dragons included key decision-makers from Mr Price Home, @Home and Homewood. These lead enterprises were eager to get on board as the accelerator creates the opportunity for them to access previously unseen local suppliers,” Sherriff explains. “Through the Dragons Den format, they were able to engage with the finalists and learn more about their innovative products.”

Three winners were announced on the day, each receiving a cash prize to support their growth. In addition to the prize money and cluster membership, all five firms will receive intensive mentoring and upgrading support. This mentorship and upgrading aim to help the firms realise the commercial opportunity identified in the Dragons Den.

“Firms will be coached and mentored by industry experts, who will work with them to ensure they are geared to meet the requirements of a potential procurement agreement. This mentoring is the magic that will help ensure these firms can convert the opportunity they have received into physical sales and through this, unlock sustainable growth for the business,” says Sherriff.

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