Since the enforcement of the national lockdown on 27 March to stem the spread of the Coronavirus in South Africa, CAST faced the challenge of suspending programmes normally held in group settings at the 13 communities in which we operate.
Our Local Economic Development programme seeks to teach business skills and introduce new opportunities to those already running small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs). Over a period of 9 – 18 weeks, the entrepreneurs take part in the Paradigm Shift Business Experience and Business Growth courses facilitated by volunteers and mentors. This curriculum aims to not only educate, but spiritually uplift as the content takes its lead from Holy Scripture.
With this programme suspended, CAST was determined to explore different ways of staying connected with our participants, so as to not lose the tremendous progress they have achieved. Through WhatsApp groups set up for each community of entrepreneurs, we have been able to conduct weekly business forums accessible to all who are interested, creating the space to share ideas, opportunities and prayer requests.
While many are facing severe economic challenges with a sudden loss of income due to enforced business closure and limitations on part-time work, Shakira from Phoenix in Durban is one such entrepreneur who has been motivated by the programme and identified the opportunity to produce cloth face masks, an essential item of personal protective equipment during this time.
The business forum WhatsApp group has been a great idea as we can’t attend our weekly classes. And having this group, we are able to communicate with each other. Janet has been a great help and God-send as she has dedicated her time to helping and assisting us through this lockdown period. Janet has assisted us in continuing with our studies via this means of communication and help us with our business plans/profile. She is passionate and helpful and is always willing to assist where she can. We get to share our weekly experiences with the group and find new ways or ideas on how to use this lockdown time to valuable use.
I have completed my business profile and with the help of Janet, I have to adjust and make a few changes. I am hoping this will improve and grow my business. The lockdown had not been good financially for my business as I have no income due to people being quarantined, but I do believe God has a bigger plan for me. We get to send our prayer requests weekly and Janet prays for our needs. I am truly blessed to be part of this incredible family.
Above: cloth face masks produced by Shakira
Below is more feedback received from other members of the WhatsApp Business Forums:
My business is not registered yet, I sell different things to people, but what I can say is, whenever we converse in our WhatsApp group I learn more about business. My very next step after lockdown is to register my business. Before CAST, I had studied business economics and economics at school and have had a learnership that I’m still busy with, it’s also about managing businesses or organisations. But the magic is only happening now.
The networking conference that was organised by CAST earlier this year, the WhatsApp group, the way CAST doesn’t let go of us, it nurtures me. I never thought that after we have graduated, we will still have a relationship with CAST. Every time I’m with my entrepreneurs’ group, it’s just a confirmation that I was meant to be in business. There was a time when I wanted to quit because I was learning common stuff during the class, but I’m glad I didn’t quit because CAST presents business from a different angle. It’s moving us beyond charity, as the CAST slogan says😃
– Surprise, Lamontville
The WhatsApp group business forum has been very helpful in a sense that there is a lot of information shared about how people in business can get help from the government. Also information about how people can get a social grant if they are not employed. It’s like a community where we can share our feelings about the lockdown and it’s also a platform where we receive information.
– Noxolo, Mariannridge
The WhatsApp group business forum is doing well. It’s making things easier for us to share business ideas and everything relating to business and CAST community. This platform is really amazing as we lift each other through this business journey with business profiles/business registration, business plans and other ideas.
I would like to thank Janet Okoye and Khetho Morgan Mdluli.
God bless you guys and we are very happy to be part of this platform.
THANK YOU CAST, you are transforming our lives
Stay indoors healthy and safe.
– Thobani, Lamontville
If you are interested in mentoring our entrepreneurs or would like to get involved in the Business Forum WhatsApp groups contact the head of CAST’s Local Economic Development programme Janet Okoye at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 083 990 2090.