Universities South Africa (USAf) Media Update
The 2020 edition of the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition was launched in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 21 January. It was a joyful event attended by academics and student representatives from universities, private sector partners and the overall programme sponsor, the Department of Higher Education and Training.
Competition entries opened up at midnight on that day and will close on 2 March.
Run by the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme of Universities South Africa (USAf), this competition is inculcating an entrepreneurial culture in students and academics at South Africa's 26 universities. The Programme has been designed to create real business owners out of enterprising students, with the aim that they become innovators now, graduating into job and wealth creators and ultimately contributing to national economic growth when they exit university.
The 2020 intervarsity competition is the second edition after a hugely successful debut in 2019. The event, which is just one of numerous initiatives within the EDHE programme, identifies top student entrepreneurs at South African universities, showcases their businesses and introduces them to potential investors.
The World Economic Forum is underway in Davos this week to debate this year's theme: "stakeholder capitalism." Up for discussion is the exploration of equitable solutions for sustainable development and a global move away from economic elitism. One of the big goals set is how to reskill and upskill a billion people in the next decade.
That process is already in motion at South Africa's 26 universities where inroads are being made into generating, upskilling and empowering entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship traits need to be nurtured quite early in the game
Prof Christian Friedrich, Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Western Cape's School of Business and Finance, has done extensive research into success factors regarding entrepreneurs and small business owners. In his 15-year-long research programme, he found that only about 1% of micro-enterprises which started with less than five employees grew to employ 10 people or more. His conclusion: approximately 40% of the success of small-scale businesses is dependent on one thing: the person of the entrepreneur who owns the business. Personal initiative (being self-starting, proactivity and persistence), Prof Friedrich found, was consistently related to business success.
Enter Musa Maluleka, 20-year-old Honours student in Accountancy Science at the University of the Witwatersrand, an entrepreneur par excellence and winner of the General Business Category award in the 2019 competition. His business idea comes from a deeply personal place: it grew out of his very own observations, experiences and need. As a teenager, soccer-mad Musa found that ordinary soccer boots were ineffectual on the Attridgeville, Pretoria, gravel ground that he and his friends played on.
After his umpteenth fall, slipping on pebbled dirt as a result of little to no traction from his regular boots, he thought a more robust form of footwear was needed for the less-resourced (i.e. gravel) soccer fields. So he designed a boot that could withstand the rigours of the terrain.
His 2019 win in September might have earned his fledgling company Disktjie (township slang for soccer = diski) R10 000; but the exposure has led to a hugely important contract where 40% of the Orlando Pirates soccer team now wear his specially designed shin guards. Disktjie, he proudly states, is ultimately targeted at the South African soccer star. He strongly believes that the success of this brand lies in soccer enthusiasts seeing prominent soccer stars playing in this colourful brand of boots.
Without a doubt, Disktjie is getting positive response from the clientele that matters. Musa will be happy when he gets to supply the entire Professional Soccer League with his merchandise. He also aspires to expand beyond the boots to a full range of branded sportswear and to grow his existing customer base throughout the African continent.
The story of Musa Maluleka's soccer boot begins with him as a 6-year-old, complaining about his pittance of an allowance, then thinking better of it and asking his mother to put his pocket money into a savings account.
Packed school lunches instead of sugary tuckshop treats instilled discipline, he says. Every year, the money that would have been frittered away grew, over time, into a sizeable R60-000 - money Musa would use (in his first year at Wits) to start his own business.
Entrepreneurship, he says, is a lonely business and not for the faint hearted. Venturing into this space involved thought, conceptualisation, design, designers, manufacturers, marketing... and nerves of steel.
Ravi Govender, Head of Small Enterprises at Standard Bank, says that one of the main reasons for the premature failure of small businesses in SA is that they are started as survivalist ventures with little skill or knowledge of business. Musa says programmes like EDHE, and contests like this, are important because they provide a safety net for the survivalist. "I am very grateful for the help I received from my university," he says.
Someone who is accessing a captive audience with his business is Penang Shirindza from Tzaneen in Limpopo. The BCom (Information Systems and Economics) Rhodes University student started his digital advertising company Urban Play with childhood friend Dean Mokoena. It won him the Best Innovative Business Idea and earned him R10 000. Urban Play uses high-definition screens mounted in taxis and buses to provide in-transit digital marketing. Penang found a profitable way to make money out of a captive audience: taxi and bus commuters. At the same time, his visual screens provide relief from boredom for passengers forced to endure long waiting times in this popular mode of public transport. Read how far Penang has come with this idea in the next edition of the DHEN.
At the launch event on Wednesday he advised entrepreneurs to learn this lesson, fast: "Budget for capital. Be careful with money and know your numbers."
This is something that last year's overall winner, Mvelo Hlophe endorses. The 21-year-old UCT student who grew up in Port Shepstone, Kwa-Zulu Natal, says his interest in entrepreneurship peaked in high school when he developed an admiration for those "working in the technological space".
His business Zaio (taken from isiZulu okuzayo, or future) teaches people - free of charge - how to develop software and code, through a gamified learning experience where they complete theory and learn to solve business problems. His app has already helped many clients solve problems, and he has provided work, and an income, for dozens of young people. His clients include such big names as Standard Bank, World Bank and Allan Gray's E Squad.
"I'm grateful that the journey has begun. We're just starting out, but with hard work and strategic thinking - learnt from being at UCT - I have high hopes for this company," he said.
Also from UCT, 21-year-old third year BSc Physics and Chemistry student Denislav Marinov's company, DVM Designs, won him the Existing Technological Business category. His company makes 3D printers and it is his dream to use 3D printers in South Africa's schools to "level the education playing fields". DVM Designs manufactures 3D printing machines for hobby printing and industrial usage.
Denislav says his company's main focus in the educational space is "to produce affordable 3D printers that are packaged with a design thinking curriculum and educational content so that learners are exposed to problem solving technologies and thinking." He says when he entered the 2019 competition he was freelancing. Now he has a fully registered company for which he holds big dreams.
All four of the 2019 winners say they are grateful for the help that they have received from their universities; help on all levels: intellectual, practical, emotional and financial.
At the launch event on 21 January, all four went on stage to talk about their trials and triumphs, hopes and future dreams. Read more about it in the next edition.
They all encouraged their fellow university students around the country to take part in the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition, which, they said, is a life-changing experience.
Entries are now open for 2020. For information on how to enter; eligibility, categories and time lines, please visit our website https://edhe.co.za/
Winners will be announced on July 7, 2020.
Charmain Naidoo is an Independent Writer commissioned by Universities South Africa.
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