Much like entrepreneurs, exhibitions are economic enablers.
There is no doubt that entrepreneurship, collectively, is an essential driver of societal health, wealth creation, and a formidable engine of economic growth. In fact, according to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa report; the nascent entrepreneurial rate increased from 7,3% in 2019 to 10,5% in 2021, whereas the new business ownership rate almost doubled from 3,7% in 2019 to 7,3% in 2021, and the early-stage rate increased by an impressive 6,7% (10,8% in 2019 to 17,5% in 2021). The established business ownership rate also increased by 1,7%.
Industries are paving the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs to drive economic growth by creating new products and services, stimulating new employment, and accelerating economic development – the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) industry being a large contributor to the facilitation of entrepreneurship in South Africa.
The MICE industry creates a platform for entrepreneurs from different sectors to showcase their businesses to targeted potential customers and investors within their industry, creating more opportunities for employment and economic growth. In light of Entrepreneurship Month, members of the Africa Association of Exhibition Organisers (AAXO), recall learnings and actions throughout their own entrepreneurship journeys which contributed to their national, and global, success.
Projeni Pather, founder and Managing Director of Exposure Marketing – owner of the MamaMagic Expo – believes that mentorship is key to stimulating growth of the MICE industry. “As an entrepreneur myself, I am very aware that starting a business in the exhibition industry has its challenges and triumphs. If you don’t have someone to guide you through the foundation stage, it can be detrimental to long-term sustainability. Doing it alone can result in irrational decision-making, taking shortcuts, and not prioritising strategically”.
Pather credits her drive to achieve business growth to her own mentor – her husband. “My mom and dad were conservative and practical and wanted me to get a steady job and live comfortably; my husband, on the other hand, taught me to reach for the stars, showed me that I could take risks, start my own business, be an intuitive leader, and make my big idea a reality. It helps to have someone take you out of your comfort zone, the adrenalin rush when you successfully fulfil a project is always thrilling,” says Pather.
2) Support the Organiser
ExpoGuys, who have been trading for seven years, started as a small company and from the onset were able to deliver beyond their humble start-up experience. They credit their business growth to their solutions-focused approach and their goal to ensure that the organisers of the events they manage are supported throughout.
“Our support service is to the organiser. The organiser drives business tourism to our country with successful events and exhibitions, so our part is to support the organiser in making their vision a physical reality,” says Pat Cronning, Commercial Director at ExpoGuys.
3) Collaboration is Key
Firehouse Technologies – through their Business Matchmaking™ program – believe that collaboration and matchmaking at events is crucial in driving inbound investment into the country.
“Running Meetings Africa, Tourism Indaba, Magical Kenya and the Pearl of Africa in recent years, tourism events rely heavily on marketing and selling their destinations. Our Business Matchmaking™ programs in this industry alone, yielded hundreds of thousands of meetings. Tourism Indaba 2019 resulted in 44 000 scheduled meetings for one event!” says Tracy Harley, founding member and Managing Director at Firehouse Technologies.
4) Community-Driven Approach
Bheki Twala, President of Township Events Business Council, credits the success of his businesses – and that of the township economy as a whole – to the lobbying for transformation, development and promotion of the township economy through right-fit partnerships, such as those built with dmg events in 2022 at their national events.
By supporting the growth of the community, through various actions – such as the signing of Township Economic Development Act in April this year, as example – Twala strives to support a multitude of individuals and businesses in their growth by providing a platform for investment and collaboration, thereby improving economic activity in the townships.
In conclusion, Devi Paulsen-Abbott, Chairperson of AAXO, adds: “AAXO welcomes the next generation of entrepreneurs to the MICE industry. The opportunity the industry provides for economic development and inbound investment and collaboration is paramount to the growth of the country across sectors. We look forward to seeing what’s in store.”