Our story started in 1979 at a business conference in downtown Johannesburg. The late Dr. Anton Rupert – egged on by his son, Johann – proposed the idea for a joint venture between the public and private sectors to finance and support SMEs.
Within two years, the Small Business Development Corporation Ltd (SBDC) was established, with both the public and private sectors having equal shareholding. The main role of the SBDC was to provide investment capital and business support to small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). These beneficiary businesses could be a start-up, in the process of expansion, or one without access to capital markets. In short, the SBDC backed potential.
The SBDC quickly gained a reputation for being first-class in its field, and by 1994, was referred to by The World Bank as “unmatched by any other financial institution in South Africa”. The dawn of South Africa’s democracy marked the commencement of a restructuring process for the SBDC. Extensive negotiations between its public and private sector shareholders resulted in the company narrowing its focus and market segment to SMEs only. The SBDC affirmed its position as an independent profit-making company with the vision of being the best value-adding provider of capital to SMEs in South Africa.
Name Change – With the conclusion of the restructuring process came the decision to reconsider our name. And so in 1998, the Small Business Development Corporation Limited became Business Partners Limited. This repositioning process cemented our move into the niche SME market. This resulted in the introduction of innovative financing and investment products for SMEs, and the restructuring of the property portfolio to ensure that business premises would be made available at market-related rentals.
Our new name ‘Business Partners’ reflects our relationship with our clients as well as our commitment, not only to investing in viable SMEs, but also to the contribution of much needed value-adding support services. It also expresses the partnership we form with the entrepreneurs we support.
To ensure our relevance and strengthen our SME niche market position, we regularly review our business processes. We also undertake initiatives to raise awareness around our brand, increase understanding of our product and service offering and increase the number of investment deals and average deal size per annum.