Black entrepreneurs who joined a predominantly white business network franchise in East London on Thursday night said they needed to move on and do business on a mixed platform.
There was applause when it was announced that the eighth group, or “Rainbow Chapter”, of Business Network International (BNI), was to be run by Ntombi Matyobeni, who was elected chapter president.
Each chapter has place for 16 business owners or professionals, but no service duplication is allowed. BNI’s Eastern Cape director Butch Coetzee said the California-inspired franchise, which has 7805 chapters in 73 countries, cost members R3200 a year (excluding VAT), but each member did an average of R300000 in business every year with other members.
Rough maths puts that at around R36-million a year generated by the eight East London chapters.
Matyobeni, managing director of the Ncebentle Group, told Saturday Dispatch: “We are doing away with racial boundaries and are focusing on business being simply business.
“We are moving away from division and are doing business which cuts across and embraces different sectors.
“We are all South Africans in business. We have gone past racial boundaries and see each other as brothers and sisters, and this will take us forward.”
Lundi Ludidi, a banker for 30 years, left her job as Absa’s branch manager in Hemingways to start Lamsa Coaching, to try and help clients understand how the “language of the mind” affected business and life decisions.
“In banking and in life it is all about people. We may have black, brown or pink coloured skin, but underneath the colour of our blood is the same,” she said.
Shirley Ntuli, owner of the four-star, 14-room, Rose Petals guest house in Vincent, said being exposed to a mix of business owners was a first. “I am glad I am here.”
The Rainbow Chapter members all took the stage and introduced themselves to scores of other East London chapter members, who applauded them.
In the Rainbow Chapter were two attorneys (litigation and labour), an auditor, a mineral water company, a debt councillor, estate agent, a financial planner, a funeral services director, an electrician, a graphic designer, and a handyman going by the name of Geez Services.
Sanlam investment broker Miley Adams, 34, told the crowd he tried for five years to find a BNI slot in East London, but they were full.
“I was always told to start my own chapter.”
He approached BNI stalwart Andy Marais, who agreed to help.
Adams called Marais a “fantastic mentor”, and the “biggest pain in the butt. He turned out to be a church mouse on steroids”.
Within five months, they had 17 members, which was extraordinary.
Marais said: “At a time when business is not exciting and people like Penny Sparrow and Julius Malema are pulling people apart, we suddenly saw people of different colours coming forward with such openness.
“We have seen relationships being welded. We are breaking barriers which are generations old.”
The 16 Rainbow chapter members on stage all read out loud a business oath promising to provide quality services, to follow up referrals, to be truthful and build goodwill and trust and to do business with a positive attitude. — firstname.lastname@example.org