Change the world

School of Management Sciences


The NMMU has identified 13 general research themes that are supported by the institution in terms of funding and institutional support. One of these themes is:  “Sustainable local economic development”.  Entrepreneurship, SMMEs and family businesses is one of the 5 sub-themes under this main research theme, emphasising again the importance of entrepreneurship and family businesses as research focus areas in South Africa. 

The NMMU Family Business Unit is working closely with leading scholars and family businesses to provide excellence in family business research and teaching, and to be a valuable resource for family business owners, advisors to family businesses, researchers, and policy-makers interested in the field.

The NMMU through the NMMU Family Business Unit is the first African university to become an affiliate of the global STEP project.  The Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices (STEP) project involves rigorous qualitative and quantitative research. Active dissemination of evidence based knowledge is done through Summits with families and publications.  Established in 2005, STEP is a collaborative research initiative that aims to understand how successful long lived family firms ignite entrepreneurial thought and action across generations.  STEP explores the important questions related to sources that enable continuous innovations to create new streams of wealth and value across generations.  

STEP scholars and families join together to: 

 Conduct cutting edge research on the entrepreneurial capabilities and contributions of business families worldwide

  Generate an applied stream of powerful and pragmatic entrepreneurial practices that fuel continuity and growth of family enterprises

  Provide a shared learning environment where researchers interact with family business leaders to generate solutions that have an immediate impact.

Each year, STEP Summits are hosted around the world where scholars and families come and work together to produce new knowledge about the practices in family businesses.   These Summits are supplemented by STEP Academic Conferences in which scholars actively engage in helping each other to maximize the practical and intellectual potential of their research.  

According to Prof Pramodita Sharma, Global Director, STEP Project “With 44 institutions and almost 200 scholars involved in a co-ordinated investigation of factors important for transgenerational entrepreneurship in family enterprises, the STEP project is extremely important in its uniqueness as a global applied research project. To co-create knowledge, STEP scholars and families have held 12 Summits around the world, since STEPs inception in 2005.”


The first case study conducted by the NMMU Family Business Unit, under the leadership of Prof Elmarie Venter and Prof Shelley Farrington, was with the family members of the well-known Tavcor Motor Group.  The Family Managed Volkswagen, Audi and Suzuki Dealership Group operate mainly in Port Elizabeth and George. The business started in 1950 as one of the first VW Dealerships in South Africa and has focused its attention on a narrowly defined area – the Eastern & South Western Cape. Over the years the Tavcor Motor Group has been known for its pioneering approaches to how they do their business and this coupled to unbeatable value their customers.    This made this family business an ideal candidate for the first case study on family businesses.


ABOVE (from left to right): Prof Shelley Farrington, Prof Elmarie Venter and Prof Pramodita Sharma