Ishishini Lethu

Small businesses and start-ups can make use of our pro bono corporate legal services through our Ishishini Lethu Project.

Launched in August 2013, the project creates a support system for emerging businesses working to establish themselves. It also allows our commercial lawyers to contribute to the communities we operate in according to their areas of expertise. Since the inception of the project, we have assisted numerous small businesses to understand and exercise their rights and participate more effectively in the economy.

Through our Ishishini Lethu project, we partner with non-profit organizations who can refer clients in need of legal services such as advice on business registration, tax compliance and the drafting of shareholders agreements. We also assist these partners to provide training and development opportunities to entrepreneurs and small business owners, emphasising the legal aspects of doing business.

Our partners are                                     

  • Adams & Adams – A leading intellectual property (IP) law firm based in South Africa
  • Alexandra Chamber of Commerce – A non-profit organisation that serves the small business sector in Alexandra, Johannesburg
  • Ashoka SEA Change Africa – an international organisation that promotes social entrepreneurship
  • British Council – the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities
  • Business Information Centre of South Africa (BICSA) – providing business development support and customised solutions to Soweto’s entrepreneurs
  • Children and Youth Finance International – coordinator of an international movement working for the financial inclusion and financial education of young people
  • Enablis – empowering and supporting small business through their entrepreneur development model
  • European Union – the economic and political bloc comprising 27 member states in Europe
  • ProBono.org – partnering with private law firms in the delivery of free legal services
  • South African Business Resource Institute (SABRI) – facilitating access to business resources for small and medium enterprises to contribute to their growth, sustainability and, ultimately, create jobs
  • Shape eKasi Entrepreneurs – A nonprofit organisation that develops township entrepreneurs by hosting conferences and other events that provide training, development and access to information and finance
  • Startup Academy South Africa – an entrepreneurship school for career entrepreneurs
  • Technoserve – An international nonprofit organisation that works with enterprising men and women in the developing world to build competitive enterprises in business, industries and on farms
  • Youth Entrepreneurs (Ye!) – an international organisation promoting youth empowerment through mentorship and continuing education

At the Ishishini Lethu advice clinic, we consult with qualifying small businesses and startups, from events coordinators and butcheries to small manufacturers and gardening services, assisting them with a variety of matters. We also collaborate with our partners in offering training and development to entrepreneurs and small business owners, with our contribution emphasising the legal aspects of doing business.

Examples of our work:

Alexandra Chamber of Commerce

We have a longstanding relationship with the Alexandra Chamber of Commerce, especially in offering training and development opportunities to Alexandra-based entrepreneurs. Here are some of the initiatives undertaken over the years.

‘Turning your ideas in a business’: The Alexandra Chamber of Commerce invited us to participate in a formalisation workshop – ‘Turning your ideas into a business’ – for 30 artists from Alexandra. The workshop was hosted in November 2013 in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry. We participated by promoting the corporate pro bono legal services offered through our Ishishini Lethu project. Along with colleagues from Adams & Adams we presented on intellectual property and how to protect one’s ideas.

Construction Business Workshop: In June 2014 we took part in the Construction Business Workshop hosted by the Alexandra Chamber of Commerce. Our Construction Practice presented on construction contracts to around 60 small construction companies from the area. The workshop focused on how these businesses could approach and manage their construction contracts in such a way as to enforce their rights and minimise their risks.

Open day: We attended the Alexandra Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 open day for small business enterprises (SMEs) in Alexandra. The aim was to connect these SMEs with financiers, legal advisors, accountants and well-established business enterprises.

team engaged with enthusiastic entrepreneurs such as restauranteurs, bakers, construction and engineering companies, IT specialists and suppliers operating in the eventing, manufacturing and textiles sectors. We provided corporate legal advice covering the incorporation of companies and legislation relevant to operating companies, and emphasised the importance of knowing and observing the applicable taxation laws. We also spent time educating business owners hungry for information about business-critical documentation such as memoranda of incorporation, shareholders agreements and security registers.

Ashoka SEA Change Africa Pitch

We hosted this event in Johannesburg on 17 April 2019, bringing together 12 African social entrepreneurs and 140 impact investors and related support organisations. The social entrepreneurs were pitching for support for their projects, ranging from initiatives to increase crop yields and reduce school absenteeism to those using renewable energies, such as for irrigation.

Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – speed mentoring

Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship hosted an insightful speed mentoring session for 20 Liberian entrepreneurs at its Braamfontein campus on 14 March 2016. The aim was for the entrepreneurs (or mentees) to engage with mentors who had a range of business experience. Each mentee presented his or her business case and its challenges.

Thereafter the business challenges and possible ways to resolve them were discussed in a timed mentoring session during which the mentees rotated every five minutes from one mentor to the next. Our lawyers’ expertise in international trade, company, competition and intellectual property law and knowledge of the structures and regulations governing the banking and financial sectors was useful in contextualising the mentees’ issues. They also advised on general business expansion strategies such as the possibilities of franchising. 

British Council and European Union – launch of BusinessPROS

BusinessPROS, a mentoring programme for entrepreneurs, was launched in Johannesburg on 7 November 2019. The launch marked the official commencement of the mentorship journey of 12 selected entrepreneurs and was a team effort between Bowmans, the British Council and the European Union.

Business Information Centre South Africa – Soweto launch

Ishishini Lethu was launched in August 2013 in Soweto, in collaboration with Business Information Centre South Africa, a Soweto-based non-profit organisation servicing the small business community of Soweto. Approximately 450 small businesses attended a seminar on general corporate legal issues. Thereafter our lawyers provided corporate legal advice to the business owners.

Bandwidth Barn – promoting our services in Woodstock

In May 2014 we partnered with the Bandwidth Barn to promote our pro bono services to around 20 small businesses from Cape Town and its surrounds. We also held an onsite legal clinic where our lawyers provided pro bono legal corporate advice to businesses. Many of the businesses later formalised their pro bono applications for further assistance.

Cape Town Department of Tourism – Women’s Day outreach to entrepreneurs

the invitation of the Department of Tourism, Cape Town, we participated in an outreach to around 200 women entrepreneurs at an event held at the Cape Town Centre of the Book in honour of Women’s Day, 2018. We covered topics of mentorship, procurement, tax and legal matters relating to small businesses.

eKasi Entrepreneurship Movement – annual conference

The #Shape eKasi Entrepreneurship Conference is an annual event organised by the eKasi Entrepreneurship Movement, a not-for-profit company dedicated to improving townships and rural areas in Southern Africa (eKasi being slang for township or informal settlement). Many successful entrepreneurs have grown out of these areas, coming up with socially innovative solutions to many local challenges. Our Ishishini Lethu project offers legal advice to many eKasi Entrepreneurs.

#Shape eKasi Entrepreneurship – conference in Khayelitsha

In November 2013, our Cape Town office participated in the #Shape eKasi Entrepreneurship Conference in Khayelitsha. Themed ‘A new breed of Business Leaders’, approximately 250 small businesses from Khayelitsha attended. The conference aimed to create a community of supportive entrepreneurs by giving them access to opportunities and information on funding, mentorship and incubation programmes. In addition to presenting, our lawyers were on hand to give pro bono legal advice.

Ye!, Startup Academy and Children and Youth Finance International – guided training

At a guided training session in Johannesburg on 21 April 2019, young entrepreneurs learnt how to register a business, be tax compliant, locate key resources and address business problems that may arise.  The event was a team effort involving Bowmans, Ye!, Startup Academy and Children and Youth Finance International.

Ye! – small business outreach in Kampala

Business registration, financing and employment and tax laws were top of mind for 20 entrepreneurs who attended a small business outreach event in Kampala in 2019. This was a collaboration between Ye! and Bowmans, and covered a range of legal topics relevant to small businesses

Examples of our work include

eKasi is slang for township or informal settlement. The #Shape eKasi Entrepreneurship Conference is an annual event organised by the eKasi Entrepreneurship Movement – a not for profit company dedicated to improving townships and rural areas in Southern Africa. In recent years, many successful entrepreneurs have grown out of these areas – coming up with socially innovative solutions to many local challenges. These men and women need support, incubation, funding, mentorship, skills and partnerships to succeed further. Our Ishishini Lethu project offers legal advice to many eKasi Entrepreneurs.
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In November 2013, our Cape Town office participated in the #Shape eKasi Entrepreneurship Conference in Khayelitsha. Themed “A new breed of Business Leaders”, approximately 250 small businesses from Khayelitsha attended. The conference aimed to create a community of supportive entrepreneurs, by giving them access to opportunities and information on funding, mentorship and incubation programmes. In addition to presenting, our lawyers were on-hand to give pro bono legal advice.
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The Alexandra Chamber of Commerce invited us to participate in a formalization workshop – “Turning your ideas into a business” - for 30 artists from Alexandra. The workshop was hosted in November 2013 in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry. We participated by promoting the corporate pro bono legal services offered through our Ishishini Lethu project. Along with colleagues from Adams & Adams we presented on intellectual property and how to protect one’s ideas.
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Ishishini Lethu was launched in August 2013 in Soweto, in collaboration with Business Information Centre South Africa, a Soweto based non-profit organisation servicing the small business community of Soweto. Approximately 450 small businesses attended a seminar on general corporate legal issues. Thereafter our lawyers provided corporate legal advice to the business owners.
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In May 2014 we partnered with the Bandwidth Barn to promote our pro bono services to around 20 small businesses from Cape Town and its surrounds. We also held an onsite legal clinic where our lawyers provided pro bono legal corporate advice to businesses. Many of the businesses later formalised their pro bono applications for further assistance.
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At the invitation of the Department of Tourism, Cape Town, we participated in an outreach to around 200 women entrepreneurs at an event held at the Cape Town Centre of the Book in honour of Women's Day. We covered topics of mentorship, procurement, tax and legal matters relating to small businesses.
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After taking part in the Alexandra Chamber of Commerce’s construction workshop, we noticed the need the small businesses had for more enduring information. Our specialist construction law lawyers set to work to write our first pro bono publication: A Guide to Construction Contracts. The publication gives small businesses information on the legislation and legal concepts that affect them and useful information on contracts.
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In June 2014 we took part in the Construction Business Workshop hosted by the Alexandra Chamber of Commerce. Our Construction Practice presented on construction contracts to around 60 small construction companies from the area. The workshop focussed on how these businesses could approach and manage their construction contracts in such a way as to enforce their rights and minimize their risks.
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