From urban kiosks and rural farmers to fashion stores, service providers and entrepreneurs in countless other sectors, the small business segment in South Africa has faced unprecedented changes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, further fueled by the rapid acceleration of digital transformation and e-commerce.
To support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in navigating this journey, Mastercard Academy has launched ‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’ – a first-of-its kind digital education platform that brings together a range of world-class academic and business resources to help small businesses learn and thrive.
Last year, soon after the world went into a lockdown, Mastercard announced a $250 million commitment over five years to support SMEs with digital tools and training during the pandemic. Now with the launch of ‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’, Mastercard will further empower small businesses with data insights and knowledge to more efficiently and securely run their enterprises.
With a click-to-watch process on Mastercard Academy, the Entrepreneur’s Odyssey platform has direct links to recorded videos that will bring participants face-to-face with professors from Harvard, INSEAD, Wharton and the Christiansen Institute of Innovation, alongside an expert Mastercard faculty.
“Small businesses are the backbone of local communities and an engine for the global economy. Because of this, it’s never been more important to ensure that entrepreneurs and small business owners have access to educational resources, insights, tools and solutions to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and truly thrive. The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey is the latest in our Mastercard efforts to deliver on the needs of these critical businesses so they can design, launch, manage and grow their ventures,” said Michael Froman, Vice Chairman and President, Strategic Growth for Mastercard.
“Every small business owner and startup entrepreneur, particularly those with growth ambitions, should join The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey by Mastercard, a highly compelling online educational program. Particularly now that digital presence and operations are even more essential than in the past, The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey will help startup and SME owners upgrade their practices to use new tools to address rapidly changing customer expectations. The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey provides highly relevant entrepreneurship and management principles, and practical tools that anyone can apply to their businesses successfully,” said Prof Daniel Isenberg, CEO of Entrepreneurship Policy Advisors and former professor, Harvard Business School.
‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’ is a mobile and tablet-friendly, self-paced curriculum that includes online lessons* across 21 modules with a total of 28 videos of approximately 20-30 minutes each. Following a five-pathway approach, the resources are open to all aspiring and established entrepreneurs with no limits on number of viewers and free to watch. The platform will also be offered to government partners.
The five pathways include:
- Design – This pathway and the next are aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs for whom the building blocks of every great business starts with an idea and a job to be done. In this pathway, Efosa Ejomo from the Christiansen Institute of Innovation discusses why any entrepreneur’s business model should seek to address a struggle. The segment also includes how to design a customer experience, taught by a Mastercard executive.
- Launch – This pathway addresses what it takes to turn one’s business plan into a business venture. Professor David Bell from Wharton Business School discusses pricing and value creation as well as how to win in a digital economy, while a Mastercard expert gives his top tips and tricks from a digital Sherpa.
- Manage – The Manage and Grow pathways are for established entrepreneurs to discover the technology, skills and techniques to help them run their business like a professional. In this pathway, Professor Daniel Isenberg discusses the importance of building a resilient mindset while another Mastercard expert shares insights on how to build a social media marketing campaign.
- Grow – Professor Isenberg continues to share why a growth mindset is always critical to success no matter what stage of the entrepreneurial journey one is in. He presents his 3C Scale Up Model: Customers, Capacity and Cash and offers practical advice for each of the Cs.
- Community – The final pathway in the curriculum shares tools, case studies, resources and access to fellow entrepreneurs. Marla Blow, founder of FS Card and experienced venture capital fund raiser discusses the Entrepreneur’s North Star in this segment.
The SME segment worldwide is diverse and vast representing the majority of businesses in local economies. This means SMEs have a significant impact on employment, growth and GDP, with the potential to make a genuine difference in terms of equality, inclusion and community wellbeing.
While SMEs have had a hard time as the pandemic closed shop doors, and reduced footfall, they’ve also been granted an opportunity to pivot their operations online. In South Africa, Mastercard collaborated with Google and Standard Bank to offer a bundled solution to help support business owners to tackle the economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the collaboration, SMEs can get free access to Standard Bank’s SimplyBlu, an all-in-one e-commerce solution powered by Mastercard Payment Gateway Services, plus free Google Ads to the value of R500 until 31 December 2021.
“Small businesses need support to adapt. There’s often a knowledge gap, especially for smaller enterprises that have been operating in traditional ways until recently. That’s why Mastercard is offering this new set of educational tools to help guide and support small businesses through the pandemic, and beyond, into the recovery phase. By leveraging its technology, insights, global expertise and partnership approach, Mastercard aims to empower every business everywhere to grow digitally, become stronger than before, and prosper in a more connected, equal, and inclusive world,” added Driss Belemlih, the Senior VP, Customer Delivery, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.
The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey is a progression of other similar SME-related programs that Mastercard has developed in the past such as The Mastercard Trust Center which provides SME owners with links to curated education, resources and tools from trusted external sources to help them defend their business against cyberattacks. The Mastercard Digital Doors program also helps small businesses open their digital doors get SMEs online, protect their business, and ensure they have the right tools to digitally transform.
‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’ interactive playbook lessons are as follows:
- The Entrepreneur’s Mindset
- Evaluating Market Creating Innovations
- Understanding the Job to be Done
- Customer Experience Strategies for Success
- Value Creation
- Pricing Strategies
- Winning in the Digital Economy, Part 1 & 2
- Tips and Tricks from a Digital Sherpa
- Building a Resilient Business
- Securing your Small Business Part 1 & 2
- Social Media Marketing for Small Business
- Technology Adoption in the Last Mile
- The Scale Up Business Model
- Scaling Customers
- Scaling Capacity
- Scaling Cash
- The Entrepreneur’s North Star
- Enabling Gig Workers in a Digital Economy
- The Power of Working Capital
- My Start-up Story
- Open Your Digital Doors With Mastercard
Mastercard Academy provides high-quality educational services in the payment systems industry to Mastercard customers and partners that helps them operate in the most efficient way and apply the learnings in order to increase profitability. Mastercard Academy provides an ample variety of seminars geared towards providing knowledge and expertise in Mastercard products and services as well as in its leading-edge technology, in a modern, interactive, and convenient way. Mastercard Academy MEA training solutions are delivered through three unique platforms: Face-to-Face Courses; On-demand Workshops; and Online Courses (via Academy On the Web).