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Learning to use new business tools

MiDO Technologies recently partnered with Nedbank and Stellenbosch-based NPO Ranyaka Community Transformation to teach local entrepreneurs new digital skills using Google Workspace.

The training is meant to help entrepreneurs better manage their businesses and increase growth and client engagement. It will be presented as part of a three-part series workshop focused on various applications in the Google Workspace offering.

A total of 18 participants joined the three-hour training session at Die Khaya in Stellenbosch. The session focused on, among others, setting up an email account, using the calendar app to better manage a diary, setting up task lists and reminders for projects, and client feedback surveys.

Among the participants were Stellenbosch residents Khaylen Jacobs, co-owner of Valley Cultural Tours in Jamestown, and Zenobia Thomas, owner of Zenobia Thys Couture in Idas Valley.

“We started Valley Cultural Tours in December 2019 as friends,” Jacobs said. “We provide wine-farm tours to locals and tourists, and as part of our tour we also share the history of the areas we take them through.”

The business also offers hikes to clients that include pick-ups and drop offs at local residences or tourist accommodation. An avid hiker, Jacobs saw a gap in the market in 2020 and decided to use his passion for hiking to diversify his offering.

“I realised there were people who visited this region and wanted to explore it by doing hikes, but they also wanted to remain safe while doing them. So I started to explore a few hiking trails by first completing them myself to ensure the routes were safe and then taking tourists and South Africans with me on these guided hikes.”

google workspace

Jacobs says he believed the training he received would help him improve his business offering and ensure he provided a more professional service to his clients, by making better use of the Gmail email platform and using other apps that form part of Google Workspace to streamline his business.

“Before I tried to teach myself these skills by watching YouTube videos, learning from someone one is in the same room with, where they can help one immediately when getting stuck, makes it easier to learn a new skill. With everything being done digitally these days one has to learn digital skills or risk falling behind.”

Reflecting on some things he could apply immediately, Jacobs said: “I enjoyed learning how to use Google Forms. I can now ask my clients for immediate feedback after their hike or tour and find out what clients’ needs are before they book a hike. I’ll also be able to share information with my business partner as we can both see the information that clients share. Before we had to send messages back and forth to share information.”

apps as key business tools

Thomas, who manufactures custom-designed ladies wear, evening wear, and wedding gowns with intricate beading and lace work, has received support from Ranyaka since 2019 to grow her business. Ranyaka is an urban planning social enterprise (non-profit) that works in seven provinces across South Africa as they engage with communities in pursuit of holistic, sustainable and positive socio-economic impact. Ranyaka is also the national implementation agent for the Nedbank Proud of my Town programme.

After leaving the retail sector in 2015, Thomas, who also studied clothing production, decided to use her customer service background to start her business.

“I had gained enough experience in the retail sector to understand exactly what customers want. I also did not want to fall into the trap of selling people things they did not need, to make a sale.”

“My goal had always been to start my own business and to start and grow it in Stellenbosch. I have found that it is important to have support if you want to grow your business. You cannot do it on your own. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I have also learnt a lot and have been able to help women, whether they are a size 6 or 44 to get over their insecurities and feel confident in their bodies through the clothes I have made. My main aim is to have a happy and confident customer walk out of my studio.”

learning newer ways

Customer satisfaction is therefore central to Thomas’ plans for business growth. The training offered by MiDO, she says, has helped her to improve her knowledge on using e-mail more effectively as a means to interact with her customers.

“I also need customer feedback so that I know if I am delivering on my customer’s needs. I therefore found the training presented today to be very helpful. I was able to learn how to use Google [Workspace] properly. I was not aware to what extent I could use Google and had not understood its full potential for my business. I would definitely recommend the training to anyone who wants to grow their business.”

According to Nadine Farao, Sales and Marketing Manager at MiDO, the company started focusing on training entrepreneurs in digital skills in 2020, to ensure small business owners are able to use technology properly to grow their business.

“We believe in the development and growth of South Africa and Africa through accessible and quality education,” she said. “To reach this development goal, MiDO Technologies is committed to teaching digital literacy skills to entrepreneurs, learners and teachers.

“It was therefore amazing to see how much these entrepreneurs valued what they had learnt and we are happy to know that they can now implement these skills in their business, which will open up a whole new world of doing business for them.”

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