On Wednesday, April 19, 2023, the eThekwini Furniture Cluster Business Accelerator hosted its second “Dragons’ Den” event at the Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies (TWIMS) in Kloof, KwaZulu-Natal.
The event featured a unique “Dragons’ Den” format where nine aspiring, young, black entrepreneurs presented their businesses to a panel of three “Dragons” from leading retailers, Mr Price Home, Homewood, and Sheet Street.
The entrepreneurs had the opportunity to compete for an on-the-spot cash prize of R15 000, in addition to (and perhaps more importantly) pitching their businesses to unlock commercial opportunities to supply the Dragons, capital investment interventions for growth and mentorship from industry experts.
Mikhael Benefeldt emerged as the winner of the ‘Best Business Case’, earning the cash prize in what was a highly contested category. Meanwhile, Sibusisiwe Msimanga from The Beanbag Specialist was recognised as the Industry Gamechanger, and Blessing Zondi from Bfurn was named the Most Promising/Innovative Business.
Kyle Ballard, Head of the Accelerators, and an eThekwini Furniture Cluster representative stated that the second Business Accelerator exceeded the expectations of its funder, eThekwini Municipality. Ballard further explained that the Accelerator is a vital programme for achieving significant economic transformation in the regional furniture sector and supporting the participating large customers to find and develop their future, local suppliers.
“Small business owners often encounter challenges related to market access and exposure to networking opportunities. Therefore, events such as the Business Accelerator play a significant role in facilitating direct dialogue and providing high-potential SMMEs with a unique platform to pitch their value proposition and innovative ideas to leading furniture retailers to unlock their growth. Considering the quality of the SMMEs that presented their ideas during the event, large customers are eager to pursue commercial agreements with several new suppliers.
Ravesha Govender, the Programme Manager of the Economic Development Unit at eThekwini Municipality, shared that the presentations delivered on Wednesday were exceptional. She acknowledged that these pitches were the result of the SMMEs and all stakeholders’ tireless efforts and investments and added that she was amazed by the quality and potential of the top businesses showcased at the event. Govender believes that the initiative is genuinely driving localisation and promoting significant transformation in the local furniture industry.