JOHANNESBURG – Businesswoman Polo Leteka has started a company to primarily solve the problem of access to finance for black entrepreneurs and women-owned enterprises.
Leteka, 43, is co-founder and executive director and soon-to-be chairperson of IDF Capital, in Sandton, Johannesburg.
She says the 100 percent black female-owned company, which she established in 2008, provides financial and non-financial products and support to unlock value of the small and medium enterprises sector.
Leteka, a holder of BCompt honours, CTA, degree from Unisa, says she embarked on her entrepreneurial journey after leaving the Department of Trade and Industry, where she led the process to draft all B-BBEE sector codes.
“I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart,” she says, “since high school days.” Leteka says she was encouraged by government’s policy that encourages entrepreneurship to thrive.
However, she soon discovered that those wanting to start businesses were confronted by bottlenecks such as access to funding and cutting through the bureaucratic red tape.
“Women entrepreneurs remain underserved, yet we make up more than 60 percent of the African continent. This is not unique to Africa but also happens in the rest of the world.”
For that reason, Leteka says she is in the business of unlocking women potential, unapologetically.
“It’s my wish that people understand what their potential is and pursue it relentlessly so that we can reach our full economic development potential as a continent,” she says.
Overtime, Leteka says her Sandton-based firm has come to understand the entrepreneurial landscape very well.
“Our plans are to become a leading financial services provider targeting entrepreneurs on the African continent and not just in South Africa,” she says.
“What that means is that we want entrep to see us as a one-stop shop for all their financial and advisory requirements.”
She says the company has been working on raising a fund to invest on women entrepreneurs in the Sub-Saharan Africa. The fund would hopefully be launched in the next few months.
“We are looking at raising US$100 million, with the first close at US$50m.” Leteka does not mince her words when it comes to women empowerment.
“Look, we exist to solve the problem of access to finance for black entrepreneurship and black women-owned enterprises, primarily, but not exclusively.”
Leteka says she is fortunate to work in a regulated environment that encourages investment in women and early stage entrepreneurs.
“Indeed we are very fortunate to be in this market.”
The businesswoman says IDF Capital has already started providing corporate advisory solutions to entrepreneurs across the continent, by partnering with local partners in each country.
“We are also starting to develop solutions, broadly, to help drive entrepreneurship within South Africa and we are expanding into Sub-Saharan Africa.”
IDF Capital was also working with its local partners to penetrate the West African market.
Leteka says the company has invested in Netcampus, a leading training solutions provider; cleaning services company SweepSouth; and healthcare company Mediwell, among others.
The avid runner easily admits that competition is what keeps her at her toes.
“I like to think that competition is important and healthy. It actually forces us to continue to innovate all the time. The reality, however, is that we still don’t have enough investors focussing on this part of the industry.”
Leteka trained as an accountant and worked for companies including aloeCap, an investment and financial services firm, and a Standard Bank division dealing with property income fund.
She says being her own boss, however, has been a fulfilling journey. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride, with so many ups and downs, but a very fulfilling journey nonetheless, despite the challenges,” says Leteka, who recently addressed young entrepreneurs and professionals at the Unleashing Leadership Potential (ULP) insights event in Midrand.
The ULP conducts leadership development programmes aimed at contributing and promoting leadership development in communities, young entrepreneurs and those in management.
Leteka says she reads, travels locally and abroad and spends time with her family to unwind.
“I’m a great believer that each one of us has a purpose on earth. My purpose is to help Africa and Africans to achieve their economic development potential through entrepreneurship.”
– BUSINESS REPORT