Advice, encouragement and warnings on potential pitfalls were shared by last year’s winners at the launch of the fourth Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2022.
The 2021 winners were part of the virtual audience of the Intervarsity 2022 launch event that was attended by 230 students from all 26 South African public universities. The students were eager to pick up pointers on how to get through what, in what everyone agrees is going to be a tough but rewarding, adventure filled ride in 2022.
Last year’s winners, members of the EDHE team and stakeholders warned that this competition would bring both challenges and success as competitors get their businesses up and running.
GoShare: 2021 overall winning business
First up with stories from her business arsenal was the University of Cape Town’s medical student, Ms Tshegofatso Masenya (below), whose business, GoShare, won the Existing Business: Social Impact category and earned her the Studentpreneur of the Year 2021.
The pint-sized powerhouse founder of GoShare – an online, donation-based crowdfunding platform where students raise funds to cover outstanding fees – shared some of her lived experience saying she had been where the budding studentpreneurs now are. “As someone who has been on this journey that you’re about to embark on, I can offer little nuggets of advice on things that I learnt.”
She said that winning the competition in the social impact category and being the overall winner as a first-time founder provided much needed affirmation for the work she and her team are doing. “You realise that EDHE is not just a once off pitching competition. The way that it is spread out through the year creates an avenue for you to grow, and to put thought and hard work and attention into your business.”
Pay attention to the judges’ questions, Masenya advised
- “You need to be able to ask for help throughout the journey. If you are a first-time founder, or you’re running a business and it’s going well, you still need to find a mentor or a coach. Draw from these resources; create a community around you that you can depend on. Let them guide you on this journey.
- This journey lasts all year and can be draining. Make sure you have a really good support system: family, friends, a mentor, someone you can talk through your ideas with.
- It’s important to remain curious. Be receptive to new information so that your business can grow and evolve.
- Remember there are several rounds in this competition. Last year, after each round we kept upgrading our pitch. Really go into the feedback from the judges. If they raise questions, pay attention. Ask yourself why that question was asked: is there something in my presentation that was not addressed?
- Do the research. Do more research.
- Understand the industry you are tapping into.
- Review the questions being posed by the judges.
- Listen to the calibre of questions that other contestants are asked.
- Try to understand what the judges are looking for and try and pre-emptively answer those questions in your next presentation – if you make it through.”
Furthermore, Masenya said it was most important for the young entrepreneur to “believe in yourself and believe in your product”. She added: “It might be a cliché, but you can see when someone believes in what they’re doing. Remember that people are not merely buying into your idea, they are also investing in you as an entrepreneur.”
The GoShare boss told listening students that a great idea needs concomitant conviction urging them to sell both the idea, and themselves, in the process. She said they needed to invest time, effort, and resources in the way they relayed their message, in the way they tell their story. “Make sure you get people on board. The only way to do that is pitching, pitching, pitching – to anyone who’s willing to listen. That will also help you practise and upgrade your public speaking skills that are critically important in pitching.”
Her final word of advice: “While winning the competition is what most of you are here for, don’t miss the opportunity to use this time to think through your business model, to rethink and reposition. Good luck.”
Start calling yourself an entrepreneur
Fifth year UCT medical student, Ms Vuthlarhi Shirindza (below), won the 2021 Existing Business – Social Impact category for her business, Chewi – a pet telehealth app that offers on-demand pet telemedicine and services. Last year’s judges were impressed with her e-commerce platform that offers pet products and services by small and medium enterprises all accessible in one place on an app.
Urging studentpreneurs to register for the competition, she said: “Just joining this virtual platform shows that you already identify as an entrepreneur. But, like Tshegofatso said, the most important thing is to believe in yourself, to take the next step and register.”
She said it was important for the studentrepreneur to believe she was an entrepreneur and start calling herself that. “Even if you haven’t made a sale yet, if you don’t believe it, nobody else will. I encourage all of you to take a leap of faith and register for EDHE because your business will change; your life will change and YOU will change and be the better for it. Going through EDHE validated my business when I didn’t believe in myself or think it was good enough.”
Ms Shirindza echoed something repeated often at this launch: that it was not about winning the prize but rather was about growing a fledgling business in a safe, resource filled, mentored environment. “As you move from one stage to the next, your business constantly needs to grow; your pitch needs to be different; you need to be different. As everyone with a successful business knows, do your homework; learn your market, talk to customers, talk to people around you.
“The beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur these days is that when you get to the top, you are meant to have a whole team supporting you. You are not alone. Resources are there, support is there, other entrepreneurs – especially other student entrepreneurs – are there. Tap into your network, use your resources, keep growing and learning. Above all, believe in yourself.”
Take things step by step, methodically, says Tinus Potgieter
Last year, Mr Tinus Potgieter’s company, BlomSkok Technologies, won the Innovative Business Ideas category for his drone technology, designed as an early warning system for farmers. He told the virtual Intervarsity Launch audience: “It’s one thing to have a business, but remember you have to start somewhere. That’s where I am in my journey, so my advice is different to that offered by the other winners who are running businesses.
“I say don’t be afraid to start… don’t be afraid that your business idea might not be good enough or big enough. You must start somewhere.
“The nice thing about this journey is that it allows you time to think more deeply and differently about your business idea. You will be involved with a lot of people asking different questions. Through these you develop your idea, and how you think. Do not fear where you want your business to go.
“Take it step by step, methodically: One: sign in. Two: Write down your ideas. Three: Consider finances. Four: Find your target market… And so on.
“This competition helps you get to where you want to go. Spend the time; know that you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa