Is a market-led approach crucial to art and craft small and micro enterprises growth and sustainability [i.e. sustainability] in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands?
The purpose of the study was to investigate if art and craft small and micro enterprises (SMEs) in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands of South Africa view market analysis as being a vital ingredient to the growth and sustainability of their businesses and whether or not they do adopt a market-led approach to running their businesses. The study went further to ascertain if adopting a market-led approach ensured growth and sustainability as measured by increasing sales turnover and job opportunities created. Motivation for this study came from the realisation that SMEs play a vital role in the world as a whole but especially so in developing countries. As large corporations downsize, SMEs create much needed employment opportunities, jobs that are not easily replaced by technological improvements (machines) because SMEs are highly labour intensive. In so doing they help alleviate poverty albeit in a small way. It is therefore imperative that research be carried out on various aspects and arms of SMEs to assist the Government, SMEs and service providers make informed decisions that will help nurture growth and sustainability in SMEs. The art and craft sector was preferred as a case study because it is one into which the marginalised communities (rural population) especially women can easily enter into. This is because usually they already possess the skill to craft as passed down from their parents and grandparents. Raw materials used in crafting are easily available and are cheap (sometimes recycled). In addition, crafting can be done in the home at a person's convenience while they look after their children or carry out other house chores. Thirty out of a possible sixty art and craft SMEs who produce market and sell their own products were interviewed between February and March 2001. The datacollection instrument used was a questionnaire, filled out by the researcher during face to face interviews. The face to face interview was selected as a data collection method because of the advantages it offers such as the researcher and respondents both being able to clarify either a question asked or an answer given. Findings of the study indicated that only one third of the sampled SMEs adopted a market-led approach in running their businesses and all of these did so after setting up their businesses. This was despite the fact that a larger percentage (53 percent) felt that market analysis was essential to the growth of their businesses. Reasons for this disparity were explored. Further analysis brought out the fact that most of the Sampled SMEs experienced growth in terms of higher sales returns and more job opportunities created irrespective of the business approach adopted. However the market-led businesses had an edge albeit not statistically significant. Based on these findings, recommendations were made to Government, SMEs and service providers on how to assist and ensure growth and sustainability of SMEs. Suggestions for further research were also made.