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The South African Energy Business Incubator (Sarebi), based in Atlantis, is committed to growing the green economy.

Sarebi works specifically in the energy and resource efficiency fields, concentrating on technology businesses that focus on solving problems and developing solutions to problems in the energy, water and resource efficiency areas.

“Many entrepreneurs have great ideas, but few make it from concept to reality,” says Sarebi general manager, Helmut Hertzog. “Through various interventions, Sarebi supports entrepreneurs by developing business ideas into proper businesses and ultimately into competitive, sustainable enterprises.”

Over the last three years, Sarebi has supported close on 190 entrepreneurs through various interventions.

The incubator works with energy entrepreneurs in different stages of development. These may be would-be-entrepreneurs with a well-thought-through and viable business concept or even existing entrepreneurs with a viable business facing growth or sustainability challenges.

Sarebi allows entrepreneurs to enter the incubation stream at different stages and offer services appropriate for the different development stages.

“We offer a variety of support services,” says Hertzog. “It could be as simple as helping them register a business, it could be mentoring, it could be coaching, it could be supporting accounting services, it could be participating in one of our pre-incubation workshops or Masterclasses.

Sarebi currently has 48 entrepreneurs registered as active incubatees.

“Would-be entrepreneurs enter the incubation support programme in what we call our pre-incubation stage,” says Hertzog. “This stage is for people who do not have a trading business yet, they would be in an ideation or a concept phase, and once they are registered with the programme we take them through the ‘solve my problem’ product and the ‘1,2,3 trade’ modules. These are peer learning workshops that are facilitated by industry specialists, people who have run businesses and who know the technology industries. It gives would-be entrepreneurs an opportunity to brainstorm and stew with that business idea in a small format workshop where there are between 10 and 12 participants and very often they learn from each other in the process.”

Once entrepreneurs graduate from pre-incubation, they can apply for the incubation phase of the programme, which is designed for entrepreneurs that are already trading.

“For this phase, you have to show that you are generating a revenue,” says Hertzog. “This incubation stage can last up to about three years, during which we provide a variety of support functions including providing an office space where entrepreneurs can operate, we can take over their entire accounting, HR and industrial relations function, we will facilitate with any industrial relations processes, payroll management, tax affairs, name changes, company registrations, etc. The purpose of this is so that entrepreneurs have the opportunity to focus on their customer and their product.”

A core part of Sarebi’s work, says Hertzog, is to link international suppliers, or multinational enterprises, with the small and medium enterprises in the city, specifically to create opportunities for smaller entrepreneurs to participate in economic activity.

Sarebi’s success in growing small- and medium-size enterprises is already evident. LEDzShine, a business that assembles LED lights for industrial and commercial applications, in 2016 installed 300 LED lights at a large food and beverage factory in Bellville, which was expected to produce R600 000 in electricity savings per year for the factory. Another business making use of the Sarebi facility, iSOLAR, successfully completed orders for 900 solar water heaters for the City of Cape Town and the Cape Winelands District Municipality.

These successful emerging enterprises are contributing to the growth of a cluster of green economy and general manufacturing activities in Atlantis, including a pipeline of new skills.

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