An innovative programme to upscale the black women florists of Soweto is creating a new industry in the area, historically not overly supplied with florists. The sprawling suburb is now becoming home to some of the best flower arrangers in the country.
A four-month pilot project, launched in Soweto by SA Florist to assist entrepreneurs in the area to build sustainable businesses, has seen the first five florists attend initial training sessions. They were taught more about technology, financial management, the "lean business canvas" model, and flower arrangement.
"Receiving guidance through such a wonderful programme increases business opportunities and gives us the necessary exposure to become an established florist," says Gertrude Mentoor, owner of Mande Bloom in Soweto.
Ellen from Flowers By Ellen started as a driver at SA Florist, and now has her own store, but says there are a number of challenges that still hold her business back.
"The top three challenges have been to access funding – that has always being essential to the growth of a small business. To create new clients – the economy of the country has also made it more difficult for us as small businesses. But another problem the industry faces is the high capital, management and labour costs required to realise profits," Ellen says.
Research indicated a disproportionate number of white florists on the SA Florist website, and inspired management to drive change from the inside, says SA Florist managing director Matt Surkont.
"After detailed analysis of the existing 300 florists on our platform, we found that an unacceptably small percentage were black-owned."
It's only the start of the programme, but it plans to attract, upskill and support at least 30 entrepreneurs over the next three years.