You wouldn’t think we’d be hearing about an eventing business right now. It’s been almost 18 months since the pandemic first hit us and eventing is still very much an industry under severe strain.
This is one of the reasons why Shivani Chetty’s story is so inspiring. A member of the Future Females Business School, which is funded and supported by UK-South Africa Tech Hub, Shivani started her business, EventMate SA, in 2020 and was getting ready to launch her first product to 150 early technology adopters in March when the hard lockdown was put in place.
Overnight, all plans of a launch fell through, but the start-up’s challenges were only just beginning.
“The biggest problem with Covid-19 has been the uncertainty,” says Shivani. “We had investors, which meant a three-month runway to run a virtual team. We therefore decided to use the time we had to really get to know our customers and their pain points by engaging with them online. Our business is geared towards supporting small and informal suppliers to the eventing industry, and we viewed this as a great opportunity to build relationships.”
Like many businesses at the time, Shivani hoped that things would return to normal after three months and that she could officially launch. As we know, that didn’t happen – and yet, Shivani has persevered.
EventMate SA is not an eventing business. It’s a technology business that supports the eventing sector. However, while digital adoption has accelerated since lockdown, a platform that supports events is still reliant on its customers operating, and so three months into lockdown Shivani had to make some extremely tough choices, including retrenching seven staff members.
There have been many small businesses that have been forced to shut their doors as a result of the pandemic. EventMate SA isn’t one of them. What has kept this start-up operational?
There’s no doubt that mindset plays a role. As Shivani herself says, when you become resilient enough, you stop seeing challenges and you begin to see the opportunities. For EventMate SA, that opportunity is widespread digital adoption. A highly manual industry is now shifting into the technology space, which is where her business operates, helping suppliers to find, rate and support each other.
The second opportunity is for the events industry itself. While we still aren’t sure when the current uncertainty will end, we do know that people will always want to connect – the difference will be that with a new hybrid model, people will have a choice around how they want to engage and network. Industries evolve, businesses adapt and at the end of the day, we all grow as a result.
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