Mutualism Investments is a platform that offers easy access to funding and learning resources for small businesses.
Eight university students, among them four Wits alumni, claim to have raised R2.5 million in funding to help SMMEs grow their businesses in Soweto and Cape Town.
Applications to the project, Mutualism Investments, for business funding will open in June after a positive first round of fundraising.
As a team project, Mutualism started out when company CEO and University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School student, Mason Wittman, first visited South Africa on holiday in 2018. Wittman, 22, says he encountered many entrepreneurs who lacked funding and often found it difficult when applying for funding in traditional ways through banks.
Mutualism provides an opportunity for something different, as the start-up aims to help guide entrepreneurs on their journeys while providing the resources needed to be successfu
Wits University student Jolame Chirwa, who is graduating with a BCom honours in information systems later this year, said Mutualism is looking for specific small businesses to fund.
“In ideation, these are businesses that have not yet filed the required Companies and Intellectual Property Commission and South African Revenue Service documents, but have an idea and business model,’’ Chirwa says. ‘‘The businesses should also be fully operational for less than six months and looking to grow.”
Funding will open to small businesses in up to 15 sectors. These include construction, finance and insurance, scientific and technology services, retail and wholesale trade, real estate, health care, waste management, transportation and warehousing, arts and entertainment, agriculture, manufacturing, food services, education, travel and tourism and, finally, sports and recreation.
Interested businesses will need to explain how the funding will go towards creating new job opportunities. Team member Prince Moeng, who completed an accounting degree at University of Johannesburg, says Mutualism aims to reach out to more areas as it grows. It has identified “a strong growth potential of township entrepreneurs” in areas such as Soweto and Khayelitsha.
This potential makes Johannesburg and Cape Town good places to start. “There are a number of incubation hubs we can engage with in these areas when looking for new businesses such as the Tshimologong Precinct in Johannesburg,” says Moeng.
The team members met through mutual friends prior to the start-up, and Wittman told Wits Vuvuzela funds have been raised internally. “We have raised funds as a team from friends and family and we are planning to raise more funds from the government to continue building on our enterprise development initiative,” he says.
The current pool of finance is being used as a proof-of-concept fund, which the team hopes to use to prove their long-term worth in front of private investors, venture capital firms and government organisations. Phase two of the plan is set to get under way early next year. Its aim is to reach more townships around the country and raise even more funds.
Applications for funding have been advertised on the group’s website and will open to all SMMEs in Johannesburg and Cape Town in June. Users are advised to join the Mutualism mailing list so they can be notified once this takes place.
FEATURED IMAGE: Mutualism Investments has raised funds from friends and family and is looking to the government for more funding. Photo: Provided
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