BEDCO revamps its incubation programme to make more impactWritten by MZIMKHULU SITHETHO
BEDCO was established as an incubation centre with both commercial and industrial units where start-up businesses would be nurtured for a certain period of time and then graduate from BEDCO's premises.
The Corporation used to be a location in which entrepreneurs could receive pro-active, value-added support, access to critical tools, information, education, training, contacts, resources and access to finance that may otherwise be unaffordable, inaccessible or unknown.
The incubator helps firms survive and grow during the start-up period when they are most vulnerable given all assistance by a management team at affordable package.
Most incubation programmes take up to 3 years since participants cannot be allowed to be in the programme forever, which used to be BEDCO's practice when the Corporation started. However, a monitoring action plan upon graduation is also highly recommended to keep track of the performance of the incubatee.
Full service Incubators - provide a wide range of services that include enterprise development services, business consultancy, working space and other services that may be needed by incubates.
Virtual incubators - provide all other services except workspace and each client is free to work from their own separate premises.
BEDCO is regarded as an incubator that provides services regardless of where clients are located (provides services in both types).
This is the process whereby a business idea is germinated, new business established, nurtured and given all the support it needs until it is well established and ready to face the outside world (graduate from the incubation centre).
The purpose of the end-to-end incubation process is to foster entrepreneurship culture ensuring sustainable businesses that can contribute to the economic growth through job creation.
The whole process must be followed to ensure graduation of participants in the incubation programme.
- Idea germination
- Business advisory services
- Technical training
- Business management training
- Business accommodation
- Identification of appropriate stakeholders for support
- Business coaching and mentoring
- Graduation of the business
- Follow – up.
The incubator management team serves as advisors and hold regular meetings with clients to address strategic and tactical needs.
Areas of need are identified so that appropriate interventions and expertise can be offered at the right time.
Where there is need referrals can be made to relevant professional advisors and other sources of business and technical assistance.
Basic operating costs can be shared (e.g. overhead costs, including utilities, office equipment, computer services, conference rooms, laboratories, and receptionist services)
Where accommodation is provided, basic rental costs are usually below the normal market price, which allows entrepreneurs to realize additional savings.
Other service charges are also cheaper.
- Entrepreneurial management – the more enterprising the incubator management the better performance of incubates since the incubator becomes a role model.
- Appropriate selection of incubates – quality of incubates in terms of their vision, motivation, commitment and ability to develop and use networks.
- Appropriate location – locations with weak entrepreneurial culture often lead to poor performing incubators.
- Appropriate skills of the incubator manager and staff – if there is lack of competencies then performance of incubator is seriously hampered.
- Strong linkages to relevant expertise – incubates must be linked to key and affordable business support services.
- Strong relationships with like-minded organizations in the region such as LEA of Botswana and SEDA. These organizations have fully operating incubators from which BEDCO can learn
- Supportive government policies – When commitment of government is questionable, other development partners lose interest in giving their support.