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About the company

Welcome to Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), home of the entrepreneur. We’re a specialist risk finance company that provides customised financial solutions, sectoral knowledge, mentorship, business premises and other value added services for formal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa and selected African countries, namely Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.

We’re passionate about funding, supporting and mentoring entrepreneurs, or as we like to call them, the “square pegs in a sea of round holes” because they are the exceptional individuals who see the world not for what it is, but for what it could be. They view each challenge with the view to provide solutions.

What sets us apart?

We’re ‘square pegs’ too.

We are a risk finance company which means that we view each entrepreneur and application for finance on its own merit. Unlike with some risk finance companies, you the entrepreneur, are our exclusive focus.

We know that by investing in you, it will not only help with creating and building your own wealth, but also fuel the growth of the economy and the creation of jobs for many.

Over the past 35+ years, we have tailored every aspect of our business to ensure the success of the entrepreneurs we support.

  • Our products and services are specifically tailored to meet each entrepreneur's unique needs.
  • We don't have the same owner's capital or security requirements that many other financial institutions do.
  • Our range of financing and value added services provide an integrated solution for you, catering for all aspects of your business needs, including property broking and property management, as well as consulting and mentorship services.
  • As we specialise in investing capital, skills and knowledge in entrepreneurs; our staff have in-depth knowledge of the SME sector, as well as insight into the opportunities available to and challenges facing independent businesses.
  • Our risk financing model is regarded as one of the most innovative in the world and has been internationally accepted as a working financing solution for SMEs in developing countries.
  • Similarly, our due diligence process is thorough, tried and tested; therefore providing insight into the extent of inherent risk in each deal.
  • Our systems and processes have earned us an ISO 9001:2008 accreditation – the first financial services company in South Africa to be accredited in this way.

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Our story

South Africa, and indeed much of Africa and the world, needs more entrepreneurs – especially those who start-up, establish and grow SMEs. Research has proven that entrepreneurial SMEs are very effective at stimulating economic growth, generating wealth and creating jobs – all of which are required for us to successfully combat unemployment and poverty which afflicts much of the world.

To encourage more people to pursue entrepreneurship as a noble career, we must honour and celebrate entrepreneurs as role models – the true heroes of economic society who, often against all odds, generate wealth for themselves and their families and create jobs for many – and we must champion their cause. This is what we strive to do at BUSINESS/PARTNERS in South Africa and other selected African countries where we operate, namely Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.


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.

In 1981 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.

With the conclusion of the restructuring process came the decision to reposition our brand. 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. It 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 for SMEs.

Our new name ‘BUSINESS/PARTNERS’ reflects the partnership relationship we form with each of the entrepreneurs we support. It reflects our commitment not only to invest in viable SMEs, but to also contribute the much needed value-adding support services to SMEs. 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 and value of investment deals per annum.

As part of this review process, in 2014 we undertook another repositioning exercise with the specific intent of reviving our brand presence and helping to foster and entrench a culture of entrepreneurship amongst all Africans. This process resulted in the improvement of our processes, refinement of our products and changes in our logo.

Our logo reflects not only the crux of who we are, but also of who we aim to serve. The entrepreneur. At first glance, one of the stylised objects is different from the rest. It stands out and is one of a kind – the square peg in the sea of round holes. This represents the rarity of people who possess the qualities necessary to be an entrepreneur. The ‘twist’ of the square peg further emphasises the distinctive, mould-breaking character of the entrepreneur. This reflects not only the entrepreneurial qualities of the target market, but of BUSINESS/PARTNERS itself.


At BUSINESS/PARTNERS, entrepreneurs are affectionately referred to as “square pegs in a sea of round holes”. We do so because we appreciate that they are special people, the exceptional few who see the world not for what it is, but for what it could be.

Entrepreneurs almost always work against the grain, often challenging conformity, because they see the world through fresh eyes. Where others see problems and challenges, they see opportunities and turn them into solutions. They share an unwavering belief in their abilities and skills to solve problems while fulfilling societal needs. Statistics show that only one in a handful of people possesses the qualities to be an entrepreneur. They are truly special. They are different.

We, at BUSINESS/PARTNERS, recognise that we need more entrepreneurs and exist to fulfil their needs and requirements, exclusively in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector. We are passionate about entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial development.

Square pegs are our business. We invest in them, stand beside them and champion their cause. Our talent lies in our ability to unearth entrepreneurs and help them transform their lives, as well as the lives of all those they touch through their entrepreneurial endeavours. Our strength lies in our ability to tailor-make our service offerings to suit each entrepreneur’s unique needs, thus becoming the best unofficial business partner they’ve ever had. Hard work and commitment to entrepreneurs underpins the spirit of BUSINESS/PARTNERS. By always facilitating finance opportunities, sharing knowledge and being entrepreneurial in our approach, we are always contributing to building entrepreneurs.

Because, in the world of entrepreneurial finance and support, we too are the square pegs.


In striving to make entrepreneurship the most aspirational human endeavour of all, we have identified the Entrepreneurs Credo as being at the centre of our DNA.

Our Entrepreneurs Credo is taken from Thomas Paine’s ‘The Common Man’, written in 1776. It is an ageless piece of writing that speaks to the life choices and beliefs of an entrepreneur. This is a passage that speaks to who we are and who we aspire to be. The words articulate what runs in our blood, what inspires us to do what we do. An inspiring sentiment, we wish that every entrepreneur would read these words on a daily basis.

Entrepreneur’s credo
I do not choose to be a common man.
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can.
I seek opportunity … not security.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build.
To fail and to succeed.
I will never cower before any master,
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand
Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, I have done.
I am an entrepreneur.

Thomas Paine, 1776

Our brand mission is to enable successful entrepreneurship while our higher purpose is to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa, Africa and all markets where we have a presence.