Office, Wi-Fi, boardroom for R1 200
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.