Business unusual: Profound benefits, two ways.

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In 2018 South Africa, is it realistic to expect mutual advantages for corporates and the SMEs they develop?

We all know it’s not really about ticking boxes. A thriving, inclusive economy is the objective of B-BBEE, but an outcome where emerging enterprises are succeeding as much as corporates are prospering is still not what most South Africans expect.

Big businesses hesitate to engage SMEs with limited track records and credentials; at the same time, SMEs may be intimidated by corporate vendor engagement requirements. But say a company found the right SMEs, whose capability and capacity were boosted through a development programme that worked. Say these SMEs evolved into their own fully-fledged, qualified, value-adding suppliers. Imagine they entered into a synergistic partnership to take on the company’s competitors in unchartered territories, where together, they’d change brand loyalties and consumption patterns. What if the SMEs in turn began to create jobs in their communities? These synergies would generate a combined effect far bigger than the sum of the company’s and SME’s separate parts – but given the current challenges of South Africa’s complex socio-economic landscape, is this even possible?

The founders of Zevoli Consulting, Hepsy Mkhungo and Mpopi Khupe, show that it is. Their 100%-black-women team is a force, shaking up expectations in the ESD and SED space. By intelligently engineering unconventional synergies, they’re proving that they can create far-reaching benefits. Some might even say radical.

Zevoli pinpoints synergistic opportunities for businesses and the SMEs they help develop. “Over time, we’ve taken our clients from ‘How do we initiate BEE and ESD?’ to ‘How do we optimise ESD?’ to ‘How do we innovate while achieving shared value?’,” says Mkhungo. Part of this involves marrying a business’s strategy with that of every SME they help develop. The company benefits by increasing its market reach. The SMEs thrive. And the cycle repeats.

A ‘millennial mindset’ is what allows Mkhungo and Khupe to innovate and implement these synergies; fearlessness, confidence and optimism, balanced with a clear-headed, streetwise understanding of the realities of the communities in which they operate. “We know the new territories corporates needs to move into. Peri-urban, rural and township communities are where we thrive,” says Khupe. “We follow tried-and-tested methodologies. But we also adapt our delivery to address issues specific to the conditions we’re working in. This is how we disrupt brand loyalty and consumption.”

About Zevoli Consulting

Zevoli Consulting has grown to a national team of twelve permanent staff –  all of who are development heavyweights and thought leaders who earned their stripes at local and multinational blue-chip and JSE-listed companies. Their clients include Coca-Cola Beverage Company, Airports Company South Africa, Microsoft, Barlcays, Sappi and the dti. Zevoli contributed to a study on effective ESD systems by the Gates Foundation, Harvard Business School and Business Fights Poverty.