Being entrepreneurial is about more than just running a successful business; it is also about having the right mind set and attitude, qualities that equip you for life. So said Ms Karen Snyman, Deputy-Chair of the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Community of Practice (CoP) for Student Entrepreneurship. She is also a Student Entrepreneurship Specialist at Nelson Mandela University (NMU).
Ms Snyman (right) was providing an EDHE overview to participants at the fifth Students Entrepreneurship Week (#SEW2021) event hosted at Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley this week. #Rebuild. #Againstallodd.
Introducing herself, Snyman said she was known as Mam K to students at NMU, adding she has had over 30 years of experience working with students. She said: “It is my passion and joy. I’m so excited to be here at Sol Plaatje University. It is such a beautiful university situated in the heart of Kimberley. It’s wonderful to celebrate Student Entrepreneurship Week, #SEW2021, here.”
Providing the tools
She said that the purpose of #SEW2021 is to support and equip student entrepreneurs with the tools to start businesses that can be sustainable and scalable. “This week also gives universities the opportunity to host their own in-house programmes. I’m sure that if you’re at a university right now, you have already hosted SEW programmes. I know that we have done so already at NMU.
“There are a lot of exciting programmes coming from other universities, all of which we will share on our EDHE platform.
I encourage you to visit us at https://edhe.co.za/ where you will find a lot of gems from these SEWs,” she told budding entrepreneurs and academics at the hybrid (virtual/in person) event.
Snyman posed the question: Why SEW?
Promoting and strengthening entrepreneurs
“These weeks devoted to entrepreneurship help to promote and strengthen entrepreneurs and foster an entrepreneurial mind set, amongst students as well as university staff across all 26 South African universities. “SEWs help to equip you with tools to participate in the economy. We want you to be job creators when you graduate, not just job-seekers,” she said.
She described the primary purpose of Student Entrepreneurship Week as being to raise awareness of entrepreneurship in its different forms as an alternative to formal employment. Students would be challenged to have career options in place, should they not be employed after graduating. They would also be challenged to consider entrepreneurial ways to supplement their income while studying. Participating in the gig economy was one such way to do this.
Student achievers give their institutions bragging rights
Snyman said universities want to brag about their students running businesses that employ people. She referred to SPU’s Chad Lucas, the final year BCom student who has been selected as the Deputy Chairperson of the national Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Studentpreneur CoP. “He said his biggest challenge was TIME.
“Chad Lucas talked about how important it is for you make time matter. How you might have to put your social life on hold while you pursue your dream. You entrepreneurs must juggle your personal life, your academic life, your social and love life and still have time to be an entrepreneur – I applaud you. It’s really hard work. I have so much admiration for you guys,” she said.
SEW was used at universities to showcase students, their talents and to provide ideas for success. She urged students to “visit your EDHE office on campus where you know entrepreneurship is happening and where you see there is a spark of entrepreneurship. “If you have a programme or an idea to present, take it to the office, suggest it and see what comes of it.
Never be shy that your idea might not be worthwhile.
“We want to highlight the best of both worlds to you – as a student and as an entrepreneur.”
She gave a brief history of SEW, which was introduced in 2018 through events that were hosted at various universities. “In 2019, we had the privilege of hosting #SEW2019 at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha. It was wonderful. We saw our students showcasing their various products, ideas and programmes.”
This entrepreneurship veteran told students that “when you are an entrepreneur, you begin to have a different mind-set.
You adopt a can-do it attitude. You will see and know how to identify opportunities. You also know that if you fail, you start over.
“It’s about having innovative solutions and taking those further by putting ideas to action. Having an entrepreneurial attitude is about taking responsibility, managing time and being able to adapt to new situations, quickly.
“The pandemic that is CoViD-19 has taught us that it is imperative to act quickly. It showed us that we have to have the capacity and ability to make the necessary changes needed to meet new and unexpected demands that will be made of us,” Snyman said. She said that was what entrepreneurial thinking promoted: a holistic way of approaching all challenges.
The three-day event exposed students to insights shared by tried and tested entrepreneurial peers. They toured an exhibition of enterprises run by their peers at SPU and listened to panel discussions led by student entrepreneurs and presentations by lecturers from the School of Economic and Management Sciences. They also got to learn about EDHE’s new programmes and upcoming events from EDHE officials including programme Director, Dr Norah Clarke.
Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa