Help for small businesses during lockdown

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the nation on additional extraordinary measures to contain and combat the rapid spread of Coronavirus. The President's address follows the continuing consultations held over last week with Political Leaders represented in Parliament, faith based organizations and business leaders. The President has also chaired the National Command Council which received an update on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak; progress and challenges related to implementation of the recently promulgated regulations on the state of disaster and other measures to protect the country, as well as economic impact. 23/03/2020. Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a national disaster to stem the Covid-19 outbreak has hammered the country’s struggling economy, and small businesses in the far south and the rest of the country are bleeding.

The sector is expected to suffer even more following the president’s announcement on Monday night of a 21-day lockdown.

However, the president added that the Department of Small Business Development had made more than R500 million available to immediately help small businesses, and the Department of Tourism had made R200 million available to aid small and medium enterprises in the tourism and hospitality sector. Businesses will need to register at www.smmesa.gov.za to apply for state aid.

Far south business owner Welmie Laubscher runs Aloe Unique, a small manufacturer of skin and health-care products using aloe ferox.

Ms Laubscher said that since the declaration of the national disaster she had seen a 90% drop in local sales and a 94% drop in export sales, compared to March last year.

She has two shops, one in Simon’s Town and the other in Hermanus and both are completely reliable on tourists. She also sells her product online.

The products are exported to China, Tanzania, Australia, Europe, Hong Kong, America, Austria and Germany.

She and her husband work full time in the business which was established seven years ago and employs 10 people from the local community at its Lekkerwater Road office.

“In total, the decline in business will affect 14 households in our company alone,” she said.

In the meantime, she said, they were concentrating on online sales, offering discounts to locals.

KommetjieresidentMegan Fineberg is the director of Constantiaberg Travel, a travel agency in Meadowridge.

Her business specialises in all facets of retail travel, Automobile Association memberships, and the official issue of international driving permits.

“Bookings for later in the year have cancelled and bookings fully paid up for April are cancelling. Clients don’t want to postpone their travels for later,” she said.

And in the meantime, she said, she was trying not to think too far ahead and focusing on being available for clients to contact her.

Welcome Glen resident Adele Bahlmann has been running an online wedding gift and decor business, Sugarbird Weddings, for the past 11 years. The ban on gatherings of more than 100 people has hurt the businesses.

All weddings over 100 guests had been cancelled by the venues, she said, and other venues had closed or postponed by choice.

Her sales have dropped from about eight to 10 a day to only two orders last week, and there have been three cancellations of orders due to weddings being postponed.

In the meantime, she said, she would be doing much delayed marketing and website maintenance.

Da Gama Motors co-owner Robyn Kruger said their 20-year-old family-run business had been “dead still” since last week. This after business had picked up after the festive season.

Most of their clients are from overseas and travel back quite often.

“This virus has really affected us in a big way and we have bills to pay,” she said.

Louise Möller, of Fish Hoek, runs an online events company, One Love Events, founded in December last year. She specialises in the planning and set up of weddings, fund-raisers, birthdays and other events on a budget.

She said she had had three cancellations in March and while her personalised video invites were still ongoing she did not know for how long.

Lizelle Coombs, of the Angels Resource Centre, a small-business incubator, said that in times of disaster, business owners should be open to new ideas.

“If your business is really your passion, don’t give up when times are tough. Remember, it is said that any new business needs at least 1000 days of serious, daily commitment to reach success. You have come this far, don’t give up now.”

Mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, James Vos, said Covid-19 had turned the world upside down, hitting the tourism and hospitality sectors particularly hard.

The City and Wesgro – the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape – had set up a virtual advice centre to help businesses, he said.

Businesses needing support can send questions to business.support@capetown.gov.za or supportbusiness@wesgro.co.za

For free business mentoring and other support, contact the Angels Resource Centre in Fish Hoek on 0861 111 950.