Of­fice, Wi-Fi, board­room for R1 200

CityPress - - Business - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Long-term of­fice lease con­tracts and op­er­at­ing costs are of­ten a daunt­ing hur­dle for start-up en­trepreneurs, but Mpumalanga busi­ness­man Oupa Pi­lane (47) has a so­lu­tion.

Pi­lane has built a busi­ness hub with fur­ni­ture, of­fice equip­ment and a re­cep­tion­ist in Mpumalanga’s cap­i­tal city, Mbombela, where any as­pi­rant en­tre­pre­neur can walk in and start a busi­ness ven­ture without wor­ry­ing about the over­heads.

This ar­range­ment, said Pi­lane, would cost a min­i­mum of R1 200 a month and a max­i­mum of R6 500, which is a frac­tion of what a new en­tre­pre­neur has to pay in a con­ven­tional set-up of rent­ing of­fices, buy­ing fur­ni­ture and equip­ment, and em­ploy­ing staff.

Pi­lane opened the busi­ness hub at the be­gin­ning of June and spent R2.5 mil­lion to set it up. Thirty busi­nesses have signed up so far.

Bren­don Dar­rol, re­searcher and project man­ager at SME Growth In­dex, lauded this ini­tia­tive as a so­lu­tion for small busi­nesses.

“In fact, the emer­gence of a vir­tual of­fice is a global phe­nom­e­non. It al­lows for risk mit­i­ga­tion, bring­ing down the costs of busi­ness and crosspol­li­na­tion of ideas,” Dar­rol said.

“This is in­no­va­tive and can surely ac­cel­er­ate the de­vel­op­ment of busi­ness and lower the risk of start­ing one … It’s a sound model for start-up busi­ness,” he added.

The dou­ble-storey build­ing hous­ing Pi­lane’s Dream South Busi­ness Lounge will have a re­cep­tion­ist man­ag­ing 300 land lines for small busi­ness own­ers. The calls will be redi­rected to their cell­phones be­cause they will not be in the of­fice all the time.

The en­trepreneurs will have ac­cess to desk­top com­put­ers, board­rooms, free Wi-Fi, a con­fer­ence room, scan­ners and pho­to­copiers. Those who want to de­stress or en­ter­tain their clients will have ac­cess to a cigar lounge, a bar and a golf course. They can also have a mas­sage and a pedi­cure in a par­lour.

“This idea was born out of my own frus­tra­tions to start a busi­ness. Small busi­ness peo­ple are of­ten caught [in a catch-22]. You have to de­cide to run your busi­ness without an of­fice and lose po­ten­tial clients be­cause you have no busi­ness ad­dress and no one takes you se­ri­ously,” Pi­lane said.

“Another op­tion you have is to be tied to a long-term of­fice space con­tract while you’re not mak­ing any money. What if you don’t get a client and you have rent and a re­cep­tion­ist to pay for? I thought that if I had to go through this, there are thou­sands of other peo­ple in same sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

Pi­lane of­fers two pack­ages – a vir­tual of­fice and a per­ma­nent of­fice.

The vir­tual of­fice of­fers the en­tre­pre­neur a busi­ness ad­dress, a land line, a re­cep­tion­ist, four hours of board­room ac­cess a month and free Wi-Fi for R1 200 a month.

Those in the per­ma­nent of­fice pack­age do not bear the costs of fur­ni­ture, wa­ter, elec­tric­ity and a re­cep­tion­ist. They also have ac­cess to the free Wi-Fi and the board­room for R6 500 a month.

“Even in the per­ma­nent of­fice pack­age, there is no long-term con­tract. You pay ev­ery month and when you can’t, you take your lap­top and leave or down­grade to the vir­tual of­fice pack­age,” Pi­lane said.

The en­tre­pre­neur – who is for­mer Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa’s spokesper­son – said that his plan was to part­ner with gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce this ini­tia­tive in ru­ral ar­eas and town­ships to em­power small and medium-sized en­ter­prises.

Pi­lane said busi­ness coach­ing and concierge ser­vices, which will in­clude at­tend­ing ten­der brief­ing ses­sions on be­half of com­pa­nies, are some of the ben­e­fits Dream South Busi­ness Lounge will of­fer small and medium-sized en­ter­prises.

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