How have small informal businesses responded to the lockdown? The information coming from Hermanus Siyakha, the non-profit organisation that provides mentoring and interest-free loans, provides some insight into the current situation.
“Of the 31 businesses that received loans in the 12 months ended March 2020, all have been unable to trade under the stringent lockdown conditions, and the majority took advantage of the loan repayment moratorium that was offered,” says Nigel Thatcher, a director of Hermanus Siyakha.
“A small number, however, managed to continue with loan repayments, either using their savings or income from other sources. One business owner whose coffee shop and peanut butter manufacturing operation could not continue, in true entrepreneurial spirit successfully switched to cooking and delivering pizzas.”
Due to the prohibition on movement, Nigel says the more than 20 Hermanus Siyakha mentors have maintained contact with business owners via cellphone or WhatsApp in order to encourage and support them in this difficult time. Zelda Malunda, who sells clothes, shoes, cosmetics as well as bedding and linen, says: “My business came to a stand-still under lockdown and Jo Carruthers is my mentor, my motivator, she is my everything. She is always so positive and that helps me…”
“Emergency financial assistance has been made available by Hermanus Siyakha to those in greatest humanitarian need and small interest-free loans will be offered to selected business owners now that Level 3 has commenced,” says Nigel.
Although it is envisaged that Hermanus Siyakha will not be able to process new loan applications until much later in the year, the organisation is positioning itself for the ‘new normal’. According to Nigel, the organisation is currently in a sound financial position, with many lenders having indicated that their loans could be considered as non-refundable grants or rolled over for new loans.
In addition, the majority of mentors have indicated that they are able to continue and there are several new mentors waiting in the wings. The post- lockdown mentoring model will adhere to strict health and requirements. Expenses have been dramatically reduced and the Hermanus Siyakha committee is actively planning for the time when new loan applications can be considered.
“We want to thank all our financial supporters, our mentors and volunteers who continue to help run the organisation in these very challenging times. The need for mentoring support and access to interest-free loans for small informal businesses is going to increase in the future, and we want to ensure that Hermanus Siyakha is positioned to continue offering this support,” says Nigel. Anyone interested in the work of Hermanus Siyakha can keep abreast of developments via the website www.HermanusSiyakha.org.za