Crowdsource funding business wins UCT medical student entrepreneur R120 000

23-11-21 USAf 0 comment

GoShare, the winning business in the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021, will not just be financially viable: it will change lives. That is what fifth-year University of Cape Town medical student, Ms Tshegofatso Masenya, intended when she founded the online, donation-based crowdfunding platform that allows students to raise funds to cover their outstanding fees.

Aptly falling in the Existing Business – Social Impact segment (Category 3) of the competition, Ms Masenya was both the R20 000 category winner, and took home the coveted R100 000 overall Studentpreneur of the Year prize. This is money she will plough back into her business. Her win made her the first female winner in the three years since the inception of the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity in 2019. By virtue of being the institution behind the Studentpreneur of the Year, the University of Cape Town automatically became the Winning University in the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021.

Eighteen of the 26 universities this year submitted in excess of 4000 entries that were whittled down to 150 at regional level, leaving just 28 finalists – 16 of them women – to compete. 

Ms Tshegofatso Masenya_ Winning photo_DSC04943

Speaking at the hybrid event held in Johannesburg and online, Masenya (above) called her win an incredible honour, “not just for me, but for GoShare.  This is an incredible affirmation of what we are trying to do and achieve with GoShare. I think that this will be the start of amazing things for students across the country, and at tertiary educational institutions. 

“We are democratising access to tertiary education and I am so happy that you are seeing the importance of that kind of project.” She thanked the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) team for organising “such a wonderful entrepreneurship competition.  “I think we are moving to a place where entrepreneurship is becoming a viable option for economic growth in this country. I think that it’s important that we continuously acknowledge and celebrate that.”

She told the 28 competing contestants that she had faced tough competition, and that she believed in all of them, their ideas, and looked forward to seeing their ventures out there, in South Africa and beyond. She urged the audience, in the room and watching virtually, to continue supporting young entrepreneurs saying that many great stories were yet to come.

Said the 2021 Studentpreneur of the Year: “My family is very proud of me. They were the first few people who made donations towards the cause because it is one they believe in.” She added that the GoShare site is already live for people to make donations.  “Right now, we are getting ready to kick off our very first campaign alongside UCT’s Vice Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng to raise R1 million for students who are enrolled in programmes that are not funded by NSFAS.”

 The 28 finalists as they prepared for the final EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity battle at the Premier Hotel in Kempton Park, last Friday

IN HER OWN WORDS: Q ‘n A with Tshegofatso Masenya:

Q: Why GoShare?

TM: Crowdfunding speaks to the distribution of resources – it is rooted in a willingness to share. I put ‘Go’ in front to create a sense of urgency and spur people into action. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea and how does it work? 

TM: Throughout my university career, and before, I’ve been aware of the difficulty that comes with access to tertiary education, waiting for things to change. As I etched closer to the end of my degree, I realised that perhaps I should aspire to drive the change that I would like to see.

In January 2021, I began seeing a high influx of tweets, Instagram stories, WhatsApp statuses and FaceBook posts of students in need of financial assistance. Social media had completely transformed from being a place of social engagement to a means to an end for many students owing anything from R1000 – R200 000.  Many of the students felt the need to demonstrate the extent of their poverty to legitimise their requests. It strips students of their dignity, locking them into an identity that only sees their socioeconomic circumstances. Some students’ campaigns gained popularity over others, entrenching already existing unequal playing fields. It was clear that people wanted to help – campaigns like #UKZNIMadeADoctor were successful. 

The need was apparent, and the donors were inclined. The next step was to create a platform that brought them together on a continuous, sustainable basis. It’s about harnessing the power of community and cultivating a culture of investing in one another. 

Q: Stories to share? 

TM: Feedback shows that GoShare is solving a problem that has challenged students financially, mentally, emotionally, academically and socially – through isolation and ostracisation. GoShare brings students relief.

One story that stands out for me is that of a young woman who could not graduate – and has therefore been unemployed –because of outstanding fees. Paying her fees gets her the qualification and allows her to look for work. What struck me was how her life came to a standstill despite deserving to graduate. GoShare donations let her recalibrate her life. That keeps us going. 

Q: GoShare’s Values?

TM: 

  • Passion: The team is passionate about democratising access to tertiary education and devising a solution that will have a lasting social impact. 
  • Empathy: We consciously start and end with the student in mind.
  • Integrity: We commit to being ethical, transparent and honest.
  • Collaboration: We are open to learning and enter into partnerships where thinking compliments ours. 
  • Anonymity: Compliance with the POPI Act ensures personal information is handled diligently. We ensure that the identity of the donor is not revealed to the students they’ve donated to so that we can pre-emptively eliminate feelings of indebtedness on the students’ behalf. 

Q: How do you make money? 

TM: We have three revenue streams. 

  • A 5% platform fee is charged to donors – covering administration costs. 
  • An annual subscription fee to funders and bursary schemes to match them with students that meet their criteria. This saves funders time and the resources needed to scout talent and lets students receive full cost bursaries/scholarships and meet potential employers, increasing their prospects for employment. 
  • Through GoCode Academy: A for-profit subsidiary of GoShare that generates in-house revenue to increase GoShare’s sustainability. We are building a platform to bridge the coding gap in South Africa by providing after-school coding programmes to primary and high school students and the general public. In keeping with our commitment to social impact, we are actively seeking unemployed graduates with coding skills and students well-versed in the field requiring work experience, to spearhead the programmes. 

The GoShare team consists of 4 UCT students, Kgomotso Letsoalo, Mitha Vanda and Vesta Nassone.

Q: How are you marketing your business?

TM: 

  • Word of mouth: Students fundraising on the platform encourage friends and family to donate, and, while receiving funding, inadvertently introduce people to GoShare.
  • Social Media: We recognize the power of storytelling and use this to build an online community that shares and reposts our progress, boosting our visibility. Being featured on the social pages of household brands gives us added credibility as a startup. Most recently, we were featured in the #KeepWalking Johnnie Walker campaign. We’ve used traditional media – online magazines, newspapers and radio for traction.
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • QR code marketing
  • Email marketing: We have a mailing list to generate leads and convert them into donors. 
  • Partnerships: Our current partnership with GradStar adds to our value proposition and enhances our brand awareness.

Q: What makes you unique?

TM: GoShare is a platform for students, by students. 

  • We have an intimate understanding of the problem and have seen the toll that outstanding fee debt takes on students, mentally and emotionally. 
  • We know the pressure of financial exclusion while having to perform at the same level as your counterparts who don’t have the same concerns.
  • We take students’ dignity seriously and let them curate their profiles and what they share with donors. They don’t need to overshare poverty stories to validate their need, allowing them to redefine their identities outside their socio-economic circumstances. 
  • We want crowdfunding to move from a once-off transaction – giving donors exclusive access to their student’s campaign from start to finish so they see the impact of their donation. 
  • Some campaigns fare better than others so, to ensure that all students benefit, donors have the option of donating towards a general basket fund. 
  • GoShare includes TVET college and private institution students.
  • We’ve set our combined household income criteria at R600 000 to intentionally account for students who form part of the missing middle.

Q: What else does GoShare do?

TM: We are aware of the unemployment crisis facing South African youth. In an increasingly competitive job market, students need new, different, qualifications. We’ve partnered with GradStar (it helps students network and meet potential employers). We want to improve student’s employment chances after graduating.

Q: How do you intend to grow your business?

TM:

  • Through strategic partnerships (GradStar; South African Education Project.)
  • Increasing brand awareness (print, broadcast, social media, word of mouth).
  • International expansion: replicating business model beyond South Africa.
  • Diversifying our offerings: Crowdfunding and tackling unemployment issues.
  • Building the GoCode Academy, to increase GoShare’s sustainability and potential to scale. 

Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa