Local Co-working Space Inspires South Africans Not to Forget the SMME Community in 2020
The flexible workspace provider Workshop17 launched a virtual hub to connect and support South African entrepreneurs.
As South Africa commenced its national lockdown period on Friday, 27 March 2020, Workshop17 is supporting thevast SME community, the backbone of the country’s economy, and calling on the country to support entrepreneurs and local small businesses in the formal and informal sectors and their employees who may face an uncertain future.
“The global COVID-19 crisis is a bolt out of the blue for us all with serious implications as it is rapidly changing the way we live and work. Not only does it threaten the health of our people and our way of life; it will have far-reaching consequences for our economy as well,” says Paul Keursten, CEO and Co-Founder of Workshop17.
Workshop17 is well known for its passion for entrepreneurs. The company’s first coworking space opened in 2012 in Maboneng, Johannesburg. These days the company offers an extensive portfolio of high-quality, affordable, collaborative workspaces across the country that host over 1 700 members – SMEs, freelancers, nomadic workers and a growing number of corporates. The brand believes its success is not just linked to the quality and cost-effectiveness of its workspaces, but also its focus to create thriving communities of supportive and like-minded people.
The South African SME sector employs about 47% of the country’s workforce and contributes more than 20% to gross domestic product (GDP). As the National Development Plan optimistically anticipates for SMEs to contribute to about 90% of new jobs in South Africa by 2030, the survival of small businesses is key and, now more than ever, of paramount importance.
A digital hub has also been created to help members and other coworking communities stay connected through networking.
“Our Entrepreneur Toolbox provides members access to useful resources such as apps, relevant webinars and podcasts, and shares tips on how to be productive when working from home. In addition, we are providing support sessions and have introduced ‘online blind dating’ where we are matching members from the same industries and letting them blind network without having previously met each other. These sessions are aimed at bringing a real sense of community and support during this stressful time,” adds Keursten.
The company has also created WhatsApp groups for all their sites to keep the coworking community spirit and momentum going which sees the sharing of blog posts, helpful information, learnings, motivational playlists and insightful podcast episodes from The Workshop17 Show.
To try and help keep morale up, Workshop17 aims to encourage the business community to try and consider the lessons that can be learnt from the unprecedented situation we all find ourselves in.
“We’ll also be using our Entrepreneur Toolbox and other virtual resources to remind our community that situations such as these provide an opportunity for innovation. It’s clear that this disruptive period in the long term will change the way businesses operate in the future. Those businesses that can meet the needs of the public in a changing world will find a way to thrive in the uncertain economic future,” says Keursten.
Keursten concludes: “Given our country’s high unemployment rate over the years, many individuals have turned to self-employment. Following this pandemic, we will see even more people needing to put on their entrepreneurial hat in order to survive. Securing a sound support base now is crucial for current and future entrepreneurs in developing sustainable businesses; essentially aiding job creation and economic stability in the future.”