Sol Plaatje University, in Kimberley, must be chest-puffingly proud of Chad Lucas, a final year BCom student who has been selected as the Deputy Chairperson of the national Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Studentpreneur Community of Practice (CoP), and already owns a promising business.
Vice Chancellor and Principal of Sol Plaatje University (SPU), Professor Andrew Crouch mentioned it in his welcome address to participants at the opening of the fifth Students Entrepreneurship Week on Tuesday. #SEW2021. #Rebuild. #Againstallodds. He said that as the host of this prestigious annual event, SPU was particularly pleased to have among its budding entrepreneurs, someone who could represent the university on the national CoP.
Ms Gail Motlhaudi, Lecturer in Economic and Management Sciences and Student Entrepreneurship Centre co-ordinator, echoed this sentiment. She said that while the fledgling SPU – they opened their doors just eight years ago – might be the “new kid on the block”, students countrywide had chosen Chad Lucas to represent them.
Speaking virtually at the #SEW2021 event on Tuesday, Lucas (left) shared his entrepreneurial journey – that has ended successfully. He started his presentation by throwing negative phrases about.
“You’re not good enough.”
“You’ll never make it.”
“That business idea? It just won’t succeed.”
“I’m a failure.”
He then asked: “How many of us have heard these words before, or felt this way? I know that I certainly have. But I’m here to tell you that those words are a lie. You see, believe it or not, at the beginning of this year, I did not own a business and I certainly was not the EDHE Deputy Chairperson of the Studentpreneur CoP.”
The entrepreneurial journey begins
He then proceeded to take the audience on his long and arduous journey, rewinding to back where it all began. “As a Grade 7 learner, my principal and teacher, Mr Bremner, uttered these words in my Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) class: In life, if you want to be successful, you need to have these two things: self- discipline and respect.
“Well, Mr Bremner, I heard you then and I hear you now.”
He invited the audience to pause and follow the hashtag #againstallodds with him. “Wherever you are right now, say out loud: #againstallodds, and then say: I will overcome.” Lucas said that in his teacher Mr Bremner’s class – when he heard how self-discipline and respect were necessary qualities for success, the entrepreneurial seeds were planted in his mind. He reminded the #SEW 2021 attendees of entrepreneurship or “market day” that their previous school might have had, in which learners had a stand or a stall from which to sell products to classmates and the rest of the school.
“You had to report back and say what it cost you to buy your product, as well as what profit or loss you made.” That was where the seed that was planted by Mr Bremner in his class was watered. That seed began to germinate.
He then fast-forwarded to 2019, when SPU held its first Student Entrepreneurship Week. “The EDHE team came to our campus, put up a stand in our quad and told us what entrepreneurship development was about. They also provided information about the hugely important Intervarsity Competition.
Watering the seed
“I was not familiar with EDHE before that. It was through that conversation that I then began to learn about what entrepreneurial opportunities are out there. “That seed that was planted by Mr Bremner was further being watered.” That was the catalyst that he needed and, in 2020, he entered the Intervarsity Competition with his business idea Chowders. “Chowders was a vegan restaurant that I conceptualised because of my love and passion for food.
“Unfortunately, I only made it to the regional rounds. But, what I learnt from that experience was that I could overcome my fears. I could stop asking myself questions like: What if I’m not good enough? Instead, I had to concentrate on pursuing my goals and fulfilling my dreams.
“Learning from that experience, I approached my school administrator and talked to her about the ideas that I had.” He said he attended the EDHE Lekgotla towards the end of 2020 where a team conceptualised an idea, coming up with a student entrepreneurship committee to foster an entrepreneurial culture at Sol Plaatje University.
Lucas said: “In 2021, I did not know where I was going, in what direction I would be headed to. I’m a final year B Com student in Business Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship. I was stuck.
“And so I said a prayer: I said, Lord, show me your will for my life. What is it that you would have me do? What is my purpose?” He said it felt as though his prayers had been answered when, in that same week, he was appointed Deputy Chairperson of the Studentpreneur Community of Practice. “The purpose of this CoP is to share ideas in common practice, as well as identify opportunities and challenges that are faced by student entrepreneurs.
“Through that appointment, I became the innovator of the month for the Northern Cape Innovation Forum where they spoke about my business.” He said he continued to marvel at the speed at which his life began to change. “Like I said, at the beginning of the year, I had no business and no position. Within a very short time, I had both.” Lucas relayed the story of how his uncle approached him, suggesting that they combine forces and partner up to start a new company.
And so, the company Potokela Utilities was born.
Potokela Utilities is born
The final year BCom student describes Potokela Utilities as a registered wholesaler that sources and distributes sanitizer and disinfectant for a company called Antibax. Deliveries are made in Gauteng, North-West and Northern Cape provinces. He said that theirs is an innovative sanitizer because it is a multi-purpose disinfectant that can be used to both sanitise hands as well as clean all surfaces. Potokela Utilities has diversified with a T-shirt side-line business. Lucas showed the audience the one he was wearing that read: I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor.
He indicated several colours that had been incorporated saying they represented different ‘awarenesses’. “Depression. Suicide prevention. Autism. HIV Aids. Heart and Stroke disease. Rare disease. They are all represented by a specific colour. We decided that we want to share this hope line with our customers.
“We at Potokela Utilities pride ourselves on striving for hope, on not being victims to our circumstances, on being survivors #againstallodds.” Chad Lucas says that he has used religion and his firm religious beliefs to overcome any thought of being a victim. “I am a survivor, not a victim to my circumstances,” he said.
The EDHE online conference host, Ms Linda Lindani asked him what his biggest challenges have been, along his entrepreneurial journey. Lucas said: “I’m a final year BCom student and so I have a lot of academic work on my plate. I also have responsibilities at home. Then I have EDHE entrepreneurial activities to attend to. And, I have my business Potokela to run. So, time management has been a big challenge for me.
“Being able to balance everything was not easy. The advice I have for budding entrepreneurs is: follow your vision. Go after your dream. Have that tunnel vision if you need to.
Time management is crucial
“Sometimes you can’t socialise. You need to focus and just work at it day and night.
“There are times when I don’t eat, I don’t sleep because I am dedicated to my dream. Pursue that. That was the big challenge for me, pursuing my dream while managing my time.”
Asked what his proudest moments to date, have been, he responded: “I was sitting in the auditorium here at Sol Plaatje and listening to the VC, Prof Crouch, talk about his pride in my appointment as the Deputy Chairperson of the EDHE Studentpreneur CoP. I couldn’t help but shed a tear. It reminded me of my parents, my family – and those simple words that mean so much: We are proud of you.
“Having my family support me and tell me that they are proud of what I have accomplished this far… I have no words to describe how emotional that makes me and how happy I feel.”
Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.