As we celebrate Women’s Month, the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year competition, sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS has revealed a record number of entries received from female entrepreneurs – growing by more than 38% from 2015.

Gugu Mjadu, 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year competition and BUSINESS/PARTNERS Spokesperson says that this is extremely encouraging given the latest 2015 to 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South African report showed that only six women were engaged in early-stage entrepreneurship for every 10 males in 2015, down from eight women in 2014.

“We are lucky to have a wealth of undiscovered talent within our country that, given the right support, will flourish,” comments Mjadu.

She goes on to say that this can be done by identifying the challenges that female South African entrepreneurs are regularly faced with and creating effective ways in which they can be overcome.

“One challenge which was brought to light by the 2015 Female Entrepreneur Index is the limited ability to gain access to the internet and other electronic networks within South Africa. According to internet live stats only 52% of the country is currently able to utilise the internet.”

While the internet has changed the way business engages with its customers, traditional marketing tactics and networking continue to remain crucial for business development, says Mjadu.

The female finalists of the competition share a top marketing tip that has aided in growing and developing their business into the success it is today:

Identify the target audience and find out how best to reach them. Once this has been established, network within your industry by attending seminars and workshops. Ask for advice and reach out to mentors – Meisie Nkosi, Managing Director of Bella Bonni Guest House

Live the brand and always project an image of professionalism as there is only a seven second window to make a strong impression. – Neli Magubane, chairman of Matleng Energy Solutions

While a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs are afraid that their business ideas may be stolen, it is important to share an overview of the business to as many people as possible. It’s all about who you know (and who they know). – Stacey Bruwer, CEO and co-founder of SPARK Schools

When networking, always have business cards available – new clients can be found in the most unexpected places. – Nerina Smithland, CEO of Smithland Guest Apartments

Add a personal touch to your company’s offering in order to stand out from the crowd. The best form of marketing is word of mouth, so always give customers something good to talk about. – Chanette Goosen, managing director of Rush Extreme Sports

Passion plays a huge part in becoming a successful entrepreneur as it constantly reminds people of why the business was started in the first place and what the mission statement is. Use passion to market your story. – Mishje Cooper, owner of Zoo-Zoo Land Daycare

Social media is best used to garner attention for products and services, as well as to build strong brand awareness, communicate and engage with customers and potential clients. It is also useful to network and engage with peer communities. – Cara Nortman, managing director of SSQ Exhibitions

If an entrepreneur is looking for further reach for the business, consider social media – a low cost form of advertising and marketing that can even be utilised from a smartphone. Create profiles across the various platforms and use Instagram to link your posts together. Work at it daily to ensure consistent interest and engagement. – Gali Gaon Segall, owner of Yemaya Group

“With female entrepreneurs now making up 60% of the finalists in the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, we hope that this trend will continue going forward and that this will inspire other women to recognise their entrepreneurial potential, act upon it, and to use these simple – yet highly effective – marketing tools to promote and grow their business ventures,” concludes Mjadu.

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