Daring to survive or to grow? The growth aspirations and challenges of survivalist entrepreneurs in South Africa

16 Aug 2016

Until recently survivalist entrepreneurs were viewed as having little or no significant impact on economic growth. This is against the backdrop of the numerous studies that have focused on the so-called high impact and well established businesses which are regarded as major vehicles for economic growth and development. Whilst there has been growing concern over the support directed at survivalist entrepreneurs given that a majority of them do not grow, this article investigates the survival and/or growth aspirations of survivalist entrepreneurs and the perceived challenges that they encounter. Mixed methods were employed for data collection using in depth semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. The snowballing sampling method was employed resulting in a sample size of 100 respondents. Contrary to the popular view that survivalist entrepreneurs, venture into businesses primarily to obtain self-employment and sustain family needs, it was noted that the majority of them (87%) pursue growth as the ultimate objective of their businesses. Nonetheless, 13% indicated meeting family needs as their primary objective. Further strengthening the foregoing results, was the fact that 90% of the survivalist entrepreneurs that enrolled in incubator programs did so because of their aspiration to grow. These entrepreneurs, however, re-echoed the need for financial support (61%), infrastructural support (23%) and favorable government regulations (16%). Growth-oriented entrepreneurs can have a greater impact on economic growth and development through employment creation and poverty reduction. This article concludes that survivalist entrepreneurs should not be discriminated against in entrepreneurship development programs, but rather provided the necessary support. They make a significant contribution towards economic development as most communities depend on the goods and services provided by them.