Mentorship is often the unsung hero in the realm of Enterprise Supplier Development (ESD), especially within the framework of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) in South Africa. While financial support and market access are crucial, the role of mentorship in shaping the success of small, black-owned businesses cannot be overstated. This article aims to delve deep into the significance of mentorship in ESD, exploring its various facets and long-term benefits.

What is Enterprise Supplier Development?

Enterprise Supplier Development is a key pillar of South Africa’s B-BBEE initiative, aimed at fostering the growth of black-owned small businesses. ESD focuses on:

  1. Supplier Diversity: Encouraging the inclusion of black-owned businesses in larger supply chains.
  2. Capacity Building: Offering resources, training, and mentorship to these businesses.
  3. Access to Markets: Facilitating opportunities for these businesses to secure contracts and penetrate new markets.

The Role of Mentorship in ESD

Mentorship in the context of ESD is about more than just offering advice; it’s about providing a roadmap for success. Here’s how mentorship plays a critical role:

Skill Development

Mentors often bring years of industry experience, helping mentees acquire both hard and soft skills necessary for business growth.


A mentor can introduce the mentee to a wide network of industry contacts, opening doors to new opportunities and collaborations.

Emotional Support

The entrepreneurial journey is fraught with challenges. A mentor provides emotional support, helping the mentee navigate through tough times.

Types of Mentorship in ESD

One-on-One Mentorship

This is the most traditional form of mentorship, where a seasoned entrepreneur or industry expert takes a mentee under their wing.

Peer Mentorship

In this model, business owners at similar stages of development mentor each other. This is particularly useful for tackling challenges that are common in the early stages of business.

Group Mentorship

Here, a single mentor works with a group of mentees. This model allows for a diverse range of perspectives and is often more scalable.

Benefits of Mentorship in ESD

Accelerated Growth

Guidance from a mentor can help a small business avoid common pitfalls, thereby accelerating its growth trajectory.

Increased Sustainability

Mentors often help in creating sustainable business models, ensuring the long-term viability of the business.

Enhanced Decision-Making

The insights gained from a mentor can lead to better business decisions, from operational changes to strategic pivots.

Case Studies: Mentorship in Action

Case Study 1: Tech Start-up

A small tech start-up leveraged mentorship to pivot their business model, resulting in a 200% increase in revenue within a year.

Case Study 2: Retail Business

Through mentorship, a local retail business was able to optimize its supply chain, reducing operational costs by 30%.

Challenges and Solutions

Time Commitment

Both mentors and mentees need to invest time, which can be a challenge.

  • Solution: Setting clear agendas and timelines can make the mentorship more effective.

Quality of Mentorship

Not all mentors offer the same value.

  • Solution: It’s crucial to choose mentors who have a proven track record in the relevant industry.

In conclusion, mentorship is an invaluable asset in the context of Enterprise Supplier Development. It offers a holistic approach to business growth, touching on emotional, strategic, and operational aspects. While financial capital is essential, the intellectual and social capital gained through mentorship can be the difference between failure and long-term success.