Introduction

The Digital Entrepreneur Empowerment Programme (DEEP) promotes digital and information communications and technology (ICT) activation for entrepreneurs, to enable them to bridge the communication and marketing divide that separates the formal and informal economies.

The DEEP programme empowers entrepreneurs of all digital skills levels through an integrated development programme that includes training, mentoring and digital marketing service provision.

The programme is four to six weeks in duration, depending on the digital skills level of the participating entrepreneur, and focusses on fast-tracking their online presence.

The Participants

Most participants are entrepreneurs managing businesses that are operational and in some cases active for over 10 years without a website or social media.  There are also community based NPO’s and social activists in the programme.  We have found the impact of this programme to be very profound with almost immediate and tangible results.

An example of this is Thembi Koli, one of the top tour guides in Kayamandi.  She has been operating for 16 years and has never had a digital presence.  With a website and social media she is now able to promote her services to a whole new market, shortening the value chain and increasing her profits.

The DEEP project also compliments other SEED programmes and supports all our entrepreneurial development activities as all enterprises need a digital presence.

The Programme

The main objective of the DEEP programme is to get active businesses established online and to empower entrepreneurs to capitalise on this presence and to grown their concerns.

The project is designed to avoid the loopholes identified in similar projects and has a very strong practical approach. The DEEP programme has the following benefits:

  • The focus is on marketing and online activation as apposed to endless digital training.  In many other similar projects entrepreneurs are often expected to learn coding and website construction, when this in fact is not an essential skill in their line of business and prevents them from activating online as their digital skills are very far behind.  We instead offer services in establishing their sites and then focus on teaching them the basics in terms of being empowered to use and update their media.  An example of this is Noluthando Magwa, the owner of a thriving pre-school and ECD centre called Umthombo Wemfunda Educare in Kayamandi.  Her business is well established, profitable and growing.  She however is digitally illiterate and it would take at least a year to establish the type of skills she would need to even attempt to build her own website, which she needs right now to grow her business.  In addition, we also find that there is a sentiment of “training fatigue” in emerging business owners who often feel that they receive too much training and that it is often not practical or in-line with their real life challenges.
  • The programme perfectly combines three pertinent development factors. This is training, mentoring and service provision.  There is a base set of information that is shared through focussed training workshops, but it is through individual mentoring that we are able to really understand the digital level and needs of each entrepreneur.  Lastly, our service provision centres around website development and the establishment of an online “look and feel” for the enterprise.
  • DEEP participants are activated practically and much of their workshop time is online. All participants spend time in our computer lab and from the first workshop, they are put to work with registering their sites and social media and then on updating and editing their platforms.
  • Public services are used to insure no costs and no loss of sites due to lapsed registrations.  The reality in the emerging business sector is that entrepreneurs are often not yet versed in record keeping and websites and online services are often lost due to non-payment, lapsed annual renewals etc.  Our programme teaches participants to use public services as follows:
    • Gmail email address is established
    • A Google profile is created
    • A Google drive is created where business information and photos are stored
    • A WordPress website or blog is created
    • A Facebook profile and page is created
    • Other selected social media platforms are created
  • Updating, editing and enhancing their sites are a priority.  The last component of the programme is the empowerment of the entrepreneurs to grow and enhance their sites and online communities.  We feel that the ultimate empowerment in this process, is to enable the entrepreneurs to go forward and use their online presence in the development and growth of their businesses or organisations.

The Long Term

At SEED we focus on nurturing long-term relationships with entrepreneurs and many of the participants of the DEEP programme have been in our development fold for some time.  Some have participated in business development training and various other forms of mentoring.  Adding the DEEP component to these already existing businesses makes a remarkable difference in fast tracking their growth.

Going forward, we will continue our relationship with DEEP graduates, offering mentoring and assistance to meet them on their own digital skills level and marketing appetite.

If you wold like to join or support the DEEP Programme, please contact nicolette@seedsa.co.za

DEEP Entrepreneurs

There are currently 30 organisations participating in the DEEP programme.  Please see our Entrepreneur section where we feature participant in our various programmes.