Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Lekgotla 2019
Theme: Entrepreneurship through the arts

One has to step out of one's comfort zone to become an entrepreneur, Chelsey Khwela says from DUT

Her business idea was born only in August 2018, but she already produces 10 units of each of her products per week. All of them sell out. She sells to her friends and staff who often come back for more, or refer brand-new customers. Ms Chelsey Khwela might have struggled to bring her brand, KCHELSEY Lip Care to where it is today, but she is confident that her products are going in only one direction: up.

The 25-year old from Amandawa Amagcino area near Scottburgh, along the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, is a first year Masters student in Management Sciences and Administration at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Her business idea that started with a lipstick remover later germinated into a broader lip care line, also introducing a lip balm and a lip scrub.

Khwela is one of over 150 students being supported by DUT's Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk to start or grow their businesses while studying. At the EDHE Lekgotla 2019 that was hosted in Durban recently, a session was dedicated to a discussion on low female participation in entrepreneurship. This was to explore the challenges facing female students in this regard and to identify appropriate interventions to increase their participation.

Ms Chelsey Khwela
Having started selling from the age of 16, Ms Chelsey Khwela, founder and owner of the KCHELSEY Lip Care, is a true entrepreneur who wishes to see more female students venturing into business.

Information does not reach students as it should

Khwela, who exhibited her products at the Exhibition Centre that was created on the fringes of the EDHE Lekgotla 2019 in Durban recently, also admits that female participation in this space is a challenge. She ascribes this to a lack of information in students, especially about business support opportunities available to them at their institutions. "I can state with confidence that my peers, from 1st year undergraduates, all the way to Masters level, do not know about the Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk at DUT. They ask me all the time about it." Having benefitted from the Centre herself, she visits it at least once monthly to attend meetings. "Students running businesses gather there to share information and support one another. We also submit our bank statements to show how much revenue we are collecting through our businesses, thus inspiring one another to persevere." She says the majority of 15 students who frequent that centre are male.

The EDHE Lekgotla 2019 Group discussion
The EDHE Lekgotla 2019 dedicated a discussion to low female participation in entrepreneurship.

Khwela also cites the Centre's preference for innovation as a possible deterrent. "The Entrepreneurial Centre encourages students to come up with innovative, out-of-the-box ideas. They want us to look beyond the obvious such as trading in hair products. But largely, students do not seem to know of this place which has assisted many, including me, in turning their ideas into tangible businesses."

Ms Nonhlanhla Khanyile, Manager at DUT`s Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk,states that even though this business incubator is fairly new -- having been established in May 2018, students are achieving big things with its assistance. The challenge is that in the six-campus institution, the Centre has a presence only on the ML Sultan campus. A sister centre located in Pietermaritzburg services the Riverside and Indumiso campuses, so their resources are overstretched. Khanyile does not dispute that the Centre could do more to market itself. They have however chosen to prioritise establishing links to heads of faculty, the most judicious method of creating awareness and entrenching the Centre in academia.

"Although we still experience teething problems, we enjoy support at the highest levels of leadership and are therefore confident we will eventually win."

Khanyile says to date, the Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk centre has managed to create a database of 150 enterprising students, of whom more than 35 have started SMMEs. "I am proud to say that out of the business ideas brought forth by our students, we have achieved over 23% success in SMME formation. We also have a mentorship programme which has helped many students grow and expand their businesses."

According to Dr Norah Clarke, EDHE Director at Universities SA, facilities equivalent to the DUT Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk have been set up at some public institutions to support studentpreneurs. As these facilities market their service offerings,students also need to inquire about them and find out what it is they have to offer.

Seeing is believing, but...

Khwela says she has attempted to attract her friends and peers into entrepreneurship. "Although they witness me selling my own products all the time, all they do is exclaim: 'Oh my God! I should also start.' However, it all ends there. I believe they are comfortable. Starting a business requires one to step out of their comfort zone."

Was she not equally comfortable when she started out?

"I was. However, selling has been in my blood since the age of 16. From my high school days I have sold many products, from chips to wrist watches, handbags, all the way to weaves (wigs)."

Female mindsets need to change

During a session on female challenges in entrepreneurship at the EDHE Lekgotla 2019, Professor Thobeka Ncunywa, Dean of Commerce at the University of Limpopo, said it was important to "change the mindset of women. That is where we must begin."

Suggested other solutions included narrowing the start-up gap between male and female entrepreneurs. It was noted that girls often shy away from male-dominated spaces such as entrepreneurship. Creating awareness of the support available to all student entrepreneurs was also proposed, as was gender inclusivity -- that is, supporting more women in positions of authority, including in running businesses. Another idea put forward was to nurture femaleowned businesses to aid their growth.

How KCHELSEY Lip Care all started

"I was trying to remove lipstick from my lips one day when, in my struggle, I tried applying a hand sanitiser to it. I immediately had an allergic reaction. My lips swelled. I went from store to store at the Pavilion Shopping Mall, trying to find a solution. Eventually they offered me make-up remover. However, after my sanitiser experience I did not want a chemically-based solution. That is what sparked an interest in me to invent my own product."

What followed was online research until Khwela discovered what already existed in the market. "But I needed to differentiate mine from others so decided to create something from natural ingredients.

swollen lips
A freak accident sparked off a business idea. The will to pursue it and the support from DUT's Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk turned the idea into a promising business.

"Having no chemistry background, I struggled with product formulation. But I educated myself from YouTube tutorials until my idea had solidified." At that time she also knew nothing about the Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk, which is located on a campus that she hardly visits. "I discovered that centre by chance the day I went to ML Sultan meet up with friends."

R51,000 start-up funding from DUT made this possible

A visit to the Centre opened up a whole lot of opportunities. "The officials not only invited me to pitch my idea for funding; they helped me prepare a formal proposal in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. I presented my idea alongside other students in front of a university panel of professors from DUT's various departments. There were researchers, business advisors and accountants, among others. Everyone asked a question on an aspect of my business that related to their expertise.

"Thanks to the support and grooming received from the Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk ahead of the pitch, I performed very well and got the R51,000 that I needed to test my target market. Although my plan was to produce 200 lipstick removers for that exercise, things did not work out as expected."

Rude awakening

Although she received the grant in October 2018, Khwela was to learn the hard way that product manufacturing is not easy. "I struggled the most to find the right packaging for my products. Whatever design I came up with, I was required to produce it in thousands to benefit from economy of scale. Those numbers required a fortune that I did not have." Khwela had used part of the funding to enrol on formal online training with an international training institute. "I needed to be trained on product formulation. It was important to equip myself while preparing to test the market."

Eventually, she ordered containers from China with very disappointing results. It took a further search in three locally based companies to find a partner who finally understood her design needs. "We still have to work some more on the packaging until I am entirely happy. I still also need to work further on labelling - but I am getting there."

lip scrub
lipstick remover
lib balm
all products
The packaging may remain work-in-progress at this point in time, but it is getting there.

Khwela's battle to find the right packaging was the biggest inspiration behind her decision to broaden her offerings from mere lipstick removers to a whole lip care line.

For a producer intending to market and sell her product online, Khwela also struggled with social media marketing until she received advice from a mentor assigned to her by the Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk. "My mentor and l met for the first time last week, and only now have I started to implement his advice."

The problems she has explained above were huge eye-openers. "But instead of discouraging me, those challenges grew me immeasurably." Her biggest lesson out of these experiences was that running a business is not easy.

"Academic knowledge and entrepreneurship have a meeting point," Khwela has learnt

She also believes, contrary to popular belief that entrepreneurs are born, not made, that entrepreneurs can, in fact, be made. "Education has a lot to do with it. I have come to realise that academic knowledge and entrepreneurship are inter-related. First of all, I acquired research skills through my university education. I research all the time for solutions to my business challenges and have continued to learn immensely.

"Registering for a formal course was also an excellent decision. I have since acquired product formulation and preservation skills. With 70% of my course content completed, I feel a lot more confident because I've learnt proper ways of doing things." She says before enrolling in this international school, she vetted it through individuals who had studied with it previously and who have become successful suppliers in their own right.

"I can now hold my own in this venture," says the young woman whose research topic for her Masters is a case study titled: Building Entrepreneurs at a Universities of Technology. She is seeking to establish the extent to which DUT is effective in preparing students to become entrepreneurs and future job-creators.

As she works on perfecting her social marketing strategy, she continues generating and selling her products in between meeting her study obligations. She is also slowly accumulating stock in readiness for when online orders kick in. "Notwithstanding the delays, I am now a quarterway away from meeting my stock target."

Aiming for international markets

This young woman says she has been networking on Facebook to generate and capture an overseas market. Through a trip that was sponsored by the DUT Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk, she got to display her products at the Maritime Silk Expo in Dongguan, China, in August 2018.

Visitors to her stall in China exhibition
customers sampling her products
Aided by translation of KCHELSEY Lip Care labels into the local languages, Chinese women were drawn to Khwela's products and sampled a few.

Even though she has to first educate the market on the need for her products, "once people realise that they need what I have to offer, they proceed to buy. Natural products are big on consumers' minds today. I have invented lip care products from natural ingredients unique to South Africa. That is an important distinction from what is already out there in the market. I cannot go wrong."

Ntokozo Thembela, the co-writer, is a 3rd year Journalism student in the Department of Media, Language and Communication in DUT's Faculty of Arts and Design.

Powered by NewsSite