VENTURES AFRICA – Founder of The Business Place, Lisa Kropman, is credited with changing the business environment in South Africa by opening up market accessibility for micro-enterprises.
Having worked at Investec Bank since 1997, Kropman has moved through the ranks and departments of the banking group, revolutionising the specialist finance organisation’s social investment and empowerment activities. From heading up the bank’s Employment Equity Forum and leading the Corporate Social Investment Division, to driving into operation the bank’s Entrepreneurship Development Trust (a black empowerment initiative), Kropman has used her intellect and initiative to open up business opportunities for the micro and small-enterprise section of the South African market.
Having been born and bred in South Africa, Kropman has remained dedicated to ensuring equal access to business opportunities – and is applauded for facilitating township start-ups as they attempt to set up viable businesses.
Indeed, Tim Cohen of the Daily Maverick has highlighted the real-life impact that Kropman’s work has had on lower level businesses in today’s South African economy, saying: “It’s impossible to know how many township bakeries and other small businesses Kropman has been responsible for initiating, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that thousands of people owe their livelihoods to her initiative and drive.”
In this vein, one of Kropman’s most significant contributions to the start-up sector in South Africa has been her creation of the Business Place. The Business Place – launched in 1999 – is an organisation which provides practical support for start-ups and small businesses, ranging from providing practical information, provision of bespoke training and the hosting of workshops to enable entrepreneurs to tackle their business-related difficulties and grow their businesses.
Having started off with one branch in Johannesburg – financed by Investec Bank and the City of Johannesburg-, the Business Place now spreads across South Africa and Swaziland, and has even expanded to Botswana. The branches now act as a network of support hubs for small-scale entrepreneurs who have the ideas and the drive, but perhaps are lacking in resources and business skills, and would not without help be able to maximise on their start-ups in order to keep their businesses afloat.
Importantly, the Business Place model also acts as a connector opening up channels between micro-enterprises and investors. Most recently, the hub has invited a financing organ – Anglo Zimele, a micro-financing company within Anglo American Corporation – into certain Business Place offices in order to pilot loan desks; thus providing direct financial access for micro and small enterprises.
Kropman holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Cape Town, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the University of Witwatersrand. She is also a Bishop Tutu African Leadership Fellow. Her career to date demonstrates that with dedication and social awareness, one person can implement initiatives that have the potential to transform a whole section of a country’s economy.