Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane, creators of the Repurpose Schoolbags, run under the Rethaka company. They have made a success of their business in their own right, and generated many column inches and TV interviews. But to take their business to the next level, the two ladies have decided to sign up as one of the first entrepreneurs to join the Standard Bank Incubator program, which was officially launched this morning.

The bank unveiled two major incubators, the Business Incubator and Technical Incubator, that will serve established businesses in and around Johannesburg, where they can test, develop, and deploy their innovations with personal guidance from the bank’s innovation and enterprise development partners.

One Virtual Incubator in Cape Town will provide entrepreneurship co-working space and access to development opportunities at Workshop 17 in the Watershed.

Three other Virtual Incubators run by Standard Bank partner LifeCo will support social entrepreneurs in the Free State, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal.

The incubators will focus 60% of its attention on fintech businesses and the rest on businesses under the general tech umbrella and around 350 innovators are expected to pass through the incubators each year.

The Business Incubator located in Rosebank,  is a co-working space that is a combination of an innovation and entrepreneurial lab. It will provide entrepreneurs with mentoring, coaching services as well as access to training in business development and content delivery for corporates.

The second phase of the Business Incubator, which will be launched sometime in May, will give entrepreneurs access to service providers who will be able to offer support for services such as web development, design, branding and so on.

“This is the first time we’re joining an incubator and I think us being part of one at this point is very critical in determining how successful we will be in the next two years,” says Kgatlhanye. “An incubator gives us a much more structured environment, which is very important because at growth stage we’re dealing with bigger numbers, more employees that need a proper structure to work efficiently.”

The Technical Incubator, an initiative housed in Milpark by Standard Bank in partnership with the University of Johannesburg’s Resolution Circle, is where entrepreneurs will be able to get down to actually creating marketable product prototypes.

Resolution Circle will have around 115 engineers and other interns and professionals in the technical sector on site to offer entrepreneurs support in manufacturing, design, IT, plastic injection moulding, 3D printing, patenting and more, using brand new equipment worth around R400 million, waiting to serve the particular needs of each business.

“We began conceptualising this project in June last year and in the process collaborated with designers and entrepreneurs to find out what it is they would like to get from the space,” says Jayshree Naidoo, Standard Banks’s Incubator Head.

“Value chains are in urgent need of individual members who can refresh the way they function or what they have to offer. However, new ideas have to prove themselves to be accepted and that carries a price tag. So, training innovators in business skills is one part of a much bigger need for funding, access to resources, and market access. Our incubators are focused on providing the full spectrum of assistance.”

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Business can be incubated for any period between three months and two years depending on what they need. Once an entrepreneur has completed a programme at one of the incubators, the Standard Bank Incubation team will monitor their business for the next year, measuring the growth of the business’s bottom line, its ability to build an asset of value and create employment. Where additional mentorship is required, it will be supplied.

“For us, the success of these incubators will be determined by the change we see in the entrepreneurs after 18 months, such as accelerated job creation, it’s not about how many entrepreneurs we will have going through the program but about their success,” says Naidoo.

Watch this space for the next call or applications to the incubator, and for more information, entrepreneurs can email [email protected]