YOUTH

Kick-starting SA’s future business leaders

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The Mpumalanga Youth Entrepreneurship Programme rewarded nine young innovators with money and mentorship aimed at the expansion of their ventures into local markets

During the recently held Mpumalanga Youth Entepreneurship Programme (MYEP) business boot camp, nine entrepreneurs from across three regions in Mpumalanga were chosen to benefit from mentoring and R40 000 in capital—a much needed kick-start for our inspiring young South African innovators.

MYEP is a partnership between the South African Breweries (SAB) through its flagship enterprise development programme SAB KickStart, and the Mpumalanga Provincial Government. Mpho Sadiki, SAB’s Head of Sustainable Development and Transformation says, “By supporting youth entrepreneurship in South Africa, SAB is contributing to the country achieving its national economic development priorities. Partnerships like MYEP allow us to assist government in growing sustainable youth businesses.”

The MYEP programme will culminate in a final three winners being selected into the SAB KickStart national programme as part of the regional winners to compete for further business development support and funding. The other participants will be recommended to various development finance institutions for possible funding and market linkages.

Lemmy Mdluli, Mpumalanga Economic Development and Tourism’s Chief Director: Integrated Economic Development Services, says, “Programmes like MYEP are very important. SMMEs need to be given an opportunity to participate in the macro-economy. The future of the next generation lies in the hands of the South African youth. We are working tirelessly to ensure that Mpumalanga youth are given opportunities to advance their businesses and access opportunities that are available through our partnership with the private sector.”

SAB’s Sadiki further adds, “By supporting youth entrepreneurship in South Africa, SAB is contributing to the country achieving its national economic development priorities. Partnerships like MYEP allow us to assist government in growing sustainable youth businesses.”

MYEP is also supported by the Mpumalanga Youth Chamber of Commerce and Industries SA (YCCISA), the Gert Sibande TVET College Centre of Entrepreneurship, SEDA, as well as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), who all contribute to developing and supporting youth entrepreneurs in Mpumalanga.

YCCISA’s Acting National President, Victor Mashego, says as partners of both MPG and SAB, he sees a profitable province through the sustainability of such initiatives and the YCCISA will continue to support this initiative because its success is directly proportional to his organisation’s main aim of eradicating poverty, unemployment and inequality.

“YCCISA, with its development partner the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA), will award the winning companies with a Sage One Pastel Accounting System, which will be free for the first year. All companies that entered MYEP will also be included in the MPYouthBiz Portal to be marketed internationally through MEGA’s Trade and Investment Division.”

He urges participants to upload their company details to the central database and the MPYouthBiz Portal, and to also visit their local National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) offices frequently so that they can be kept abreast of any initiatives established to benefit entrepreneurs.

The winning entrepreneurs were among 150 participants chosen at live pitching clinics to attend one of the three-day business boot camps held in the Gert Sibande, Nkangala and Ehlanzeni districts of Mpumalanga. Three winners were selected from each of the three districts. They are, for Ehlanzeni: Smangaliso Khoza (sanitation), Zodwa Mkwanazi (agriculture) and Sibusiso Mabilana (manufacturing); for Nkangala: Samkelisiwe Jiyana (water reticulation), Calvin Pokgwadi (pathology) and Skhulile Khumalo (construction); and for Gert Sibande: Sphiwe Mahlangu (air-conditioning), Knowledge Nkosi (trailer making) and Sifiso Mathe (construction).

Already, just a few weeks after impressing the judges at the boot camps, these businesses are benefiting from the entrepreneurial programme, having learnt invaluable skills at the boot camps, including financial management, the importance of marketing plans and how to liaise with investors.

YCCISA’s Mashego says that the boot camps were highly structured and well facilitated. As one of the nine winners of the recent Mpumalanga Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (MYEP), Pretoria resident Calvin Pokgwadi is breaking new ground by taking pathology services to rural areas. With the private pathology industry in South Africa dominated by major laboratories, Pokgwadi shows real courage by trying to claim his own market-share.

Pokgwadi’s venture, Stempath (Pty) Ltd, is headquartered in KwaMhlanga and in the year following its establishment in January 2015, the venture managed to expand its business to four regions, strategically positioning Stempath to cater for people with a lack of access to pathology services. “Stempath provides high-quality, efficient pathology services around Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, and the North West,” says Pokgwadi.

Whilst Stempath already employs 13 people, Pokgwadi says the support he has and continues to receive from MYEP is allowing him to explore opportunities in new areas of Mpumalanga. “MYEP is allowing us to robustly compete in the sector. I am very grateful,” he says.

After matriculating at the age of 15, Pokgwadi completed a Bachelor of Science (BSc), MedSci at the University of Pretoria (2006–2009). After working in the field for a few years, he said he was prompted to start Stempath because of the “alarming high mortality rate in remote areas”.

“The inequality of healthcare concerned me and led me to find a solution to deliver pathology services to rural and sub-urban areas. We pride ourselves on taking services to the people. It is my dream to take health technology to new heights and in so doing, better serve the people.”

Market penetration and business development capital are two of the hurdles Pokgwadi has faced and which MYEP is helping him to address. “My family has been supportive of my dreams to be a successful individual from a young age. I am always motivated to make them proud of the sacrifices undertook to get me where I am today. My success lies in using my purpose to make a difference in society,” he says, adding that entrepreneurs need to be supported because they solve problems and better the lives of others through employment.

The other eight winners are all equally positive about the benefits of MYEP. Nkangala District winner Jiyana says, “MYEP helped me develop my own unique business model but, most importantly, they taught me that my company does not have to be a copycat of other water purification companies.”

When Khumalo started his brick-making business, he had only one helper and they worked only a three-day week. Now, five staff members are busy five days a week. Currently, they make around 600 bricks by hand a day, but thanks to the capital from MYEP, intend investing in a brick-making machine, which will considerably up their output. “As the youth of Mpumalanga we are so grateful to government, its partners and SAB for this opportunity to grow our businesses.”

Khoza believes that with initiatives like MYEP, young people have no excuse to stand around on street corners.

“There is so much funding and so many business development structures in place to enhance up-and-coming entrepreneurs.” Says Mahlangu, “Thanks to the programme, I have gained a lot of business knowledge. It taught me critical business skills that I need to have as an entrepreneur in order to build a sustainable and thriving company.”

When Badplaas-based Nkosi first attempted to make a trailer while still in high school, in a bid to help support his family, he was temporary blinded after trying to shield his eyes with a beer bottle. Today he runs his own small business.

“To all the youth out there on the street corners, I say wake up; it is time to live your dream,” he says.

Flerrie Mashego, Co-ordinator: Services of the Mpumalanga NYDA, says the nine MYEP winners inspired confidence. “As NYDA, we are proud to be part of a programme that unleashes the potential of our youth and we commit our support to these winners through our grant programme and business support intervention in an endeavour to grow their businesses.”

The NYDA says the winners are going to be put into an incubation programme to receive the necessary business mentoring. It is expected that in turn, these nine entrepreneurs contribute meaningfully to the economy by creating jobs, especially among the youth. “It is also expected that they should perform an ambassador role and encourage other emerging youth entrepreneurs,” concludes the NYDA’s Mashego.

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