Brenda Tsolo has a dream. With more than 15 years of experience in contact centres, she knows the sector is ideally positioned to create job opportunities for unemployed, young South Africans. Wanting to be part of the employment solution, Brenda’s vision has been to set up her own contact centre and that’s why she has grasped the opportunity to own and operate a micro call centre – and has a massive goal to grow her business to 500 agents in the next five years.
Brenda opportunity to realise her dream became reality when she was selected as one of the first entrepreneurs to partner with EduPower Skills Academy in its Enterprise Development programme. The brainchild of EduPower’s Director, Rajan Naidoo, the programme seeks to develop black-owned contact centres using corporate B-BBEE Enterprise Development funding to help them scale and grow.
“Companies that are B-BBEE compliant are required to spend 1% of NPAT on Enterprise Development. EduPower wants to tap into this funding to set-up at least 20 incubators and help these entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector,” Rajan explains.
Traditionally, the contact centre industry in South Africa is limited to a number of large players as the barriers to entry are high. By setting up their incubators the EduPower contact centre facility, the entrepreneurs are not constrained by many of the traditional costs and overheads related to running a business and this greatly increases their chances of survival and sustainability. And it also increases the chances of these businesses becoming successful enough to create additional employment in the near future.
Now in her third month, Brenda is one of two entrepreneurs who have already been placed in EduPower’s 24-month programme and she already seeing the benefits of a range of hands-on practical training as well as intensive coaching, mentorship and business development. One of the most important aspects however is that EduPower is providing the required work space and infrastructure and her team of three is housed in EduPower’s custom fitted 185-seat experiential contact centre.
“EduPower has given me the platform and I am running with it! Our little incubator is in the contact centre so I have immediate access to all the support that I need for the live campaigns we are working on. And through the ongoing coaching I am learning about the different aspects of owning and operating a business. There is so much to learn but I have access to industry experts who are guiding me in making the right decisions to take my business forward,” Brenda explains.
And those lessons are frequent. Brenda’s team has been working on a campaign in which they were dialling households in the USA which required shift work in order to co-ordinate the time zones.
“It was a great campaign as it presented many different challenges and helped me cut my teeth as a leader. This has been one of the biggest changes for me – making the shift from being an employee to being the decision maker. And the tough decision was to pull the plug on the campaign as it just wasn’t making money,” says Brenda.
Naidoo believes this has been a breakthrough for Tsolo and it has confirmed her placement in the Enterprise Development programme.
“The first step in setting up our incubators is matching the opportunity to the right person. Our entrepreneurs have to have an aptitude for the contact centre industry as well as a driving passion to succeed in their own business. Skills can be learnt but these inherent characteristics are critical for any entrepreneur. Brenda’s decision shows that she is a tenacious leader who doesn’t buckle when there are tough choices to be made,” says Rajan.
Though it is still in its early stages, EduPower’s pilot project for Enterprise Development is proving that this model has the potential to build sustainable businesses which will in turn create much needed entry-level jobs for young South Africans. The company’s biggest challenge however is sourcing funding to sustain this project.
“To be successful, each entrepreneur needs to have a minimum of 10 agents on the dialler and together with infrastructure, the costs for this are R1-million per year. The beauty of our model is that companies investing in Enterprise Development in Year 1 can convert this to Supplier Development in Year 2 as the incubators can work on campaigns for that corporate. One example is data verification – in which the incubators will work on confirming contact information for the corporate’s customers and opt them in for further communication. It’s a wonderful human touchpoint for any business and a cost-effective way for businesses to comply to the new legislation being introduced by POPI. There really are endless possibilities for how these incubators could be used,” Rajan explains.
EduPower’s Enterprise Development programme and its first two incubators have been launched to provide proof of concept and Rajan believes that the model has exceeded initial expectations. He is excited about the future of the entrepreneur incubators and the potential they have to unlock job creation, income generation and ultimately, community development.
More about EduPower Skills Academy:
EduPower Skills Academy is an accredited training provider that delivers quality solutions for Skills and Enterprise Development. With more than 20 years experience in providing training for South Africa’s youth, EduPower services include fully hosted 12-month skills development learnerships, work readiness programmes and a variety of short courses. The company’s highly qualified team of facilitators is complimented by custom-fitted classrooms and a 185 seater experiential contact centre that is a first for the skills development industry in South Africa. Through these leading facilities and resources, EduPower innovative training experiences focus on changing people’s lives for the better through relevant and meaningful skills training.