The cluster of products and services provided within the incubation, business and market development theme target students, innovative entrepreneurs and community members and provide support for the establishment of new business, growing existing businesses, taking products to market and linking entrepreneurs with opportunities. These activities are operated under CoELIB.

Entrepreneurship and business skills development

CoELIB hosts enterprise start-up and business development seminars and workshops covering a range of topics focused on the challenges and solutions that entrepreneurs face. These sessions serve as learning and knowledge sharing opportunities and also target the participation of women. CoELIB makes a concerted effort to develop the skills of students and entrepreneurs from the community through the delivery of entrepreneurship and business management skills training. Training programmes specifically targeting students and entrepreneurs from the community are hosted on a quarterly basis. The outcome of the entrepreneurship and business skills training is the development of business ideas, and the development of business/ marketing plans.

Incubation

The co-location of businesses in an environment in which shared services are offered reduces the risk of business failure, especially during the first 24 months when small enterprises are most vulnerable. The provision of access to subsidized rental space is, therefore, an important advantage in that the shared locality provides opportunities for knowledge sharing between incubates. CoELIB provides physical space, including meeting rooms, shared reception, parking, training rooms, kitchen, boardrooms, and hot-desking. In addition, CoELIB provides shared services such as access to bandwidth, copiers, wireless network and printing to reduce the administrative burden on incubates. The critical elements of this service include the recruitment, management and graduation of incubates.

CoELIB also offers business advisory services in the form of gender-sensitive counselling and mentoring. The advisory services are based on the completion of a business assessment (at the business idea and business start-up phase). Advice is provided in respect of a range of issues and challenges that entrepreneurs wrestle with, including the viability of the business idea, the business start-up requirements, markets and marketing, operations, and business growth and development. The advisory services include a structured mentorship component. The mentor-mentee relationship enables the sharing of hands-on, practical, expert knowledge and experience, taking into account the specific needs of women-owned enterprises. In addition, mentors bring with them access to personal and professional networks developed over a number of years that can be invaluable to the entrepreneur.

Business linkages and networking

CoELIB makes a concerted effort to establish networks of stakeholders. The Centre develops and maintains a database of established producers, processers and key role-players in markets. Networking events and business to business meetings are the main instruments by which interaction between entrepreneurs and various stakeholders is facilitated.

Facilitating access to finance

Access to finance by new and small enterprises is critical. Often, such enterprises are perceived as high risk by banks and other financial institutions. CoELIB Iplays an important role in facilitating access to finance. This requires establishing partnerships with banks and financial institutions, obtaining information about their financing criteria and working with these institutions to improve attitudes to lending to small enterprises.

Business plan competition and entrepreneurship week

CoELIB has a Business Plan Competition dedicated to unearthing business opportunities and targeting students with business ideas to promote a culture of entrepreneurship, and to assist in fostering innovative and bankable business ideas. CoELIB has entered into a partnership with a financial institution such as a local bank to sponsor the competition and to make available judges to evaluate the bank-ability of the business plans completed by students. Students are provided with structured support in the form of advice and mentorship during the competition. A panel of judges is constituted, comprising of local entrepreneurs, bankers, and entrepreneurship experts to evaluate and select the winners. The panel comprises both male and female judges. Winners of the Business Plan Competition are announced during an entrepreneurship week. The week comprises of a number of activities, including lectures and seminars on various dimensions of entrepreneurship; a business exhibition alongside business-to-business meetings to promote linkages; and provide a platform for displaying innovations and new products.

In a nutshell, CoELIB has:-

  • Created access for clients to facilities (laboratories, office and learning) and think tanks (for business information; technology; innovation; markets and entrepreneurship).
  • Created linkages for clients to access finances, ideas, risk insurance, loans and markets.
  • Incubated business ideas and innovations for clients through direct contact with clients and non-clients (nationally and in the region) on the virtual interface.
  • Provided business start-up advice, mentorship and guidance