“Will you give me money?” Entrepreneurs often ask this question when introduced to Entrepreneurship support programmes such as Incubators and Accelerators – forgetting that there is much more to business support than pouring in funds. SME Accelerators provide intensive and time-limited business support for cohorts of start-ups and scale-ups. The end goal is growth, market expansion and investment.

The Bolstering Innovators in Africa report, by Briter Bridges and Afrilabs, identified at least 1031 innovation hubs as operational across Africa as of October 2021. When SMEs latch onto funding as the only reason to join an accelerator programme, they inadvertently miss opportunities worth more than a fifty to hundred thousand dollar cheque (in most cases, much less).

In the case of Space Turnkey Solutions, popularly referred to as Space Accra, they joined the 2021 GrowthAfrica Accelerator in Ghana and executed a project on the other end of the continent in the same year. The Ghanaian-owned design and build firm specialises in medium to large-scale construction projects such as hotels, restaurants, private residences, corporate office buildings and more. They have built a reputation for meticulous attention to detail that never sacrifices quality.

In August of 2021, the company received a call from a client resident in Nairobi, Kenya. This client had chanced upon one of their restaurant projects, Bubra, at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana. Within a week of the call, the team was in Nairobi setting up a restaurant project at the prestigious Village Market.

They reached out to their GrowthAfrica Advisor in Ghana. Collaborating with colleagues in Nairobi, she consolidated a profile of potential local partners in Kenya. The goal was to enable Space Accra to build a local team to deliver the project. On landing in Nairobi, GrowthAfrica provided a list of various contractors, suppliers and specialists, some of whom had already gone through the GrowthAfrica Accelerator. These are companies that GrowthAfrica knew well, thus saving Space Accra a ton of time in pre-screening.

The team went to work consulting with the client and vetting the partners that aligned with their vision and seemed fit to deliver the job. The design work took around four weeks, with the Ghana team collaborating closely with their local partners in Kenya.

Commencing in August of 2021, the team had to hand over a completed project in November of 2021. A tight deadline had Space Accra founder Charles Quartey on his toes in an entirely new market, balancing team dynamics, budget controls and quality assurance.

“GrowthAfrica was of great help getting us up and running in Nairobi by setting us up with some great professionals. We even ended up working with a supplier who was also working with GrowthAfrica,” said Mr. Quartey.

The company pulled it off and delivered the project in November of 2021. In December of 2021, the Golden Stool Restaurant and Bar opened its doors in Nairobi. Having expanded its international portfolio, Space Accra is working on an interior design project in Sicily, Italy, due for completion in February 2022. They are also remodelling a 60-room hotel in Lome, Togo.

Space Accra is just one example of how small and medium-sized businesses can maximise the network power of these support organisations to acquire new customers, business partners and build international teams. There are undoubtedly more successes from other hubs. Entrepreneurs must apply a wider lens when considering innovation hubs, incubators and accelerators.

Leah is an SME Growth Advisor with GrowthAfrica, an entrepreneurship support organisation that supports SMEs to scale-up, access new markets and get investor-ready. Applications for the 2022 GrowthAfrica accelerator are open; interested applicants can apply here: https://bit.ly/GAacceleratorApply2022

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