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About the company

Welcome to Business Partners International (BUSINESS/PARTNERS). We’re one of the leading business loan and equity providers for viable small to medium businesses in the world and 2019 Gold winner: SME Bank of the Year (Africa). We provide loan finance ranging from US$50 000 to US$1 million to all business owners who have a viable formal business and require finance for expansion, working capital, equipment, takeovers, property, franchises or management buy-outs.

We operate from Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. Our head office is in South Africa.​

What sets us apart from other financiers?

We provide more than just money

With our experience exclusively backing business owners, we understand that to run a successful business takes more than just money.

To enhance your chances of success, we also couple our finance solutions with an interest-free​ technical assistance loan and expert mentorship. This involves linking you with expert external consultants to help diagnose your business and provide you with customised solutions for your business.

Click here to learn about our Technical Assistance Programme

Business owners are our exclusive focus

Over the years, we have worked on perfecting our products and services to meet your unique needs as a business owner and we have tailored aspects of our business to support you to succeed. Naturally, the success of the businesses we support ultimately depends on the skills and dedication of the business owner.

If you’re serious about growing your company, connect with us.

Why do we call ourselves BUSINESS/PARTNERS?

Watch our video to learn why we call ourselves BUSINESS/PARTNERS

For the simple reason that we are invested in seeing business owners succeed. That’s why we have been the business financier of choice for many business owners for over three decades.

Our name expresses our commitment to the relationship with the business owners we serve. Not only are we committed to providing loan finance solely for viable small to medium businesses, we also bind ourselves to support business owners with our knowledge and value-added services every step of the way.

Because your success is our success. Isn’t that what you’d expect from a business financier?

Africa and the world, needs more entrepreneurs and business owners – especially those who start-up, establish and grow small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Research has proven that business owners in the SME sector are very effective at stimulating economic growth, generating wealth and creating jobs – all of which are required for us to successfully combat unemployment and poverty which afflicts much of the world.

To encourage more people to pursue entrepreneurship or business ownership as a noble career, we must honour and celebrate business owners as role models – the true heroes of economic society who, often against all odds, generate wealth for themselves and their families and create jobs for many – and we must champion their cause. This is what we strive to do at BUSINESS/PARTNERS in Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.​

Our story started in 1979 at a business conference in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa. The late Dr Anton Rupert – egged on by his son, Johann – proposed the idea for a joint venture between the public and private sectors to finance and support SMEs.

In 1981 the Small Business Development Corporation Ltd (SBDC) was established, with both the public and private sectors having equal shareholding. The main role of the SBDC was to provide investment capital and business support to small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). These beneficiary businesses could be a start-up, in the process of expansion, or one without access to capital markets. In short, the SBDC backed potential.

The SBDC quickly gained a reputation for being first-class in its field, and by 1994, was referred to by The World Bank as “unmatched by any other financial institution in South Africa”. The dawn of South Africa’s democracy marked the commencement of a restructuring process for the SBDC. Extensive negotiations between its public and private sector shareholders resulted in the company narrowing its focus and market segment to SMEs only. The SBDC affirmed its position as an independent profit-making company with the vision of being the best value-adding provider of capital to business owners in the SME sector in South Africa.

With the conclusion of the restructuring process came the decision to reposition our brand. And so in 1998, the Small Business Development Corporation Limited became Business Partners Limited. This repositioning process cemented our move into the niche SME market. It resulted in the introduction of innovative financing and investment products for business owners in the SME sector, and the restructuring of the property portfolio to ensure that business premises would be made available at market-related rentals for business owners.

In 2004 we opened our doors in Africa as Business Partners International.

Our new name ‘BUSINESS/PARTNERS’ reflects the partnership relationship we form with each of the entrepreneurs we support. It reflects our commitment not only to invest in viable businesses, but to also contribute the much needed value-adding support services to their businesses. It also expresses the partnership we form with the business owners we support.

To ensure our relevance and strengthen our SME niche market position, we regularly review our business processes. We also undertake initiatives to raise awareness around our brand, increase understanding of our product and service offering and increase the number and value of investment deals per annum.

As part of this review process, in 2014 we undertook another repositioning exercise with the specific intent of reviving our brand presence and helping to foster and entrench a culture of entrepreneurship amongst all Africans. This process resulted in the improvement of our processes, refinement of our products and changes in our logo.

Our logo reflects not only the crux of who we are, but also of who we aim to serve. The business owner. At first glance, one of the stylised objects is different from the rest. It stands out and is one of a kind – the square peg in the sea of round holes. This represents the rarity of people who possess the qualities necessary to be a business owner. The ‘twist’ of the square peg further emphasises the distinctive, mould-breaking character of the business owner. This reflects not only the entrepreneurial qualities of the target market, but of BUSINESS/PARTNERS itself.

At BUSINESS/PARTNERS, business owners are affectionately referred to as “square pegs in a sea of round holes”. We do so because we appreciate that they are special people, the exceptional few who see the world not for what it is, but for what it could be.

Business owners almost always work against the grain, often challenging conformity, because they see the world through fresh eyes. Where others see problems and challenges, they see opportunities and turn them into solutions. They share an unwavering belief in their abilities and skills to solve problems while fulfilling societal needs. Statistics show that only one in a handful of people possesses the qualities to be an entrepreneur. They are truly special. They are different.

We, at BUSINESS/PARTNERS, recognise that we need more business owners and exist to fulfil their needs and requirements, exclusively in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector. We are passionate about entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial development.

Square pegs are our business. We invest in them, stand beside them and champion their cause. Our talent lies in our ability to unearth business owners and help them transform their lives, as well as the lives of all those they touch through their entrepreneurial endeavours. Our strength lies in our ability to tailor-make our service offerings to suit each business owner’s unique needs, thus becoming the best unofficial business partner they’ve ever had. Hard work and commitment to business owners underpins the spirit of BUSINESS/PARTNERS. By always facilitating finance opportunities, sharing knowledge and being entrepreneurial in our approach, we are always contributing to building entrepreneurs.

Because, in the world of business finance and support, we too are the square pegs.

In striving to make entrepreneurship and business ownership the most aspirational human endeavour of all, we have identified the Entrepreneurs Credo as being at the centre of our DNA.

Our Entrepreneurs Credo is taken from Thomas Paine’s ‘The Common Man’, written in 1776. It is an ageless piece of writing that speaks to the life choices and beliefs of an entrepreneur or business owner. This is a passage that speaks to who we are and who we aspire to be. The words articulate what runs in our blood, what inspires us to do what we do. An inspiring sentiment, we wish that every business owner would read these words on a daily basis.

Entrepreneur’s credo
I do not choose to be a common (wo)man.
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can.
I seek opportunity … not security.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build.
To fail and to succeed.
I will never cower before any master,
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand
Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, I have done.
I am an entrepreneur.

Thomas Paine, 1776

Our brand mission is to enable successful entrepreneurship/ business ownership while our higher purpose is to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in Africa and all markets where we have a presence.