Low Income Area Entrepreneurs honoured at award ceremony Low Income Area Entrepreneurs
The power of small enterprises to improve the lives of families and communities was demonstrated when 27 small business owners from low-income areas of greater Cape Town graduated from the sponsored Small Business Academy (SBA) programme of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) yesterday [ 4 December 2018].
At the ceremony the Top 3 small businesses were awarded.
Lisa Ndyalivani, 33, owner of WooWfoods, a mobile coffee shop taking hot coffee and healthy food to commuters, students and workers in Bellville, was named the Distell Top Student with the highest mark overall after completing the sponsored nine-month development programme aimed at empowering small business owners in disadvantaged areas to grow their businesses.
Proving that age is no barrier to starting up a business, Jacqueline Julie of Mitchells Plain celebrated her 50thbirthday along with winning the ABSA Best Business Plan award for her Xcelent Crunchies & Homebakes which has turned a part-time home-baking setup into a growing formal business that supports her family of eight.
Social entrepreneur Vincent Zokufa, 37, owner of ConnectUs ICT in Eerste River, was recognised for his innovative business model providing training and support to disadvantaged schools to use their IT resources more effectively, with the De Beers Business with Most Potential award.
SBA head Dr Marietjie Theron-Wepener said the three winners had in common a drive to succeed and had demonstrated the ability to innovate and adapt their businesses to changing circumstances – “an essential trait of entrepreneurs”, she said.
“What is especially exciting is to see that they, and other participants on the programme, are not just thinking about how to grow their own businesses but also how to share what they have learnt and create opportunities for others to get into business too. This is how small business becomes the economic engine that it should be,” Dr Theron-Wepener said.
When Lisa Ndyalivani realised two years ago that tourism was “too seasonal for sustainable income”, she tapped into the food truck trend and converted her tourist bus into a mobile kitchen that starts the day at 6am serving commuters at the Bellville taxi rank and then moving on to the University of the Western Cape (UWC) campus from mid-morning to late afternoon.
“When schools are closed and business is quiet, we move around industrial areas like Parow. Being mobile means we can go to wherever our customers are to be found.
“What sets us apart is a focus on healthy food, because street food can be very fatty and rely on processed foods. We practice healthy cooking – grilling our burgers instead of frying, using fresh salad ingredients in our brown bread sandwiches – and try to educate our customers,” she said.
The next step in her growing operation, which now employs two additional people, is to invest in a second vehicle to expand the operation to her birthplace of Khayelitsha and to develop a portable WooWfoods healthy foods stand that can create opportunities for unemployed youth to start their own businesses.
She said not only had the SBA honed her practical business skills, particularly in managing her finances better, marketing the business and becoming more operationally savvy, but she had also been inspired to continue with her education and has applied to do a postgraduate diploma in business next year.
Best business plan winner Jacqueline Julie supplemented the family income for more than 20 years selling home-baked crunchies and says turning it into a fully-fledged business “took a mind-shift, a realisation that I could build something lasting”.
Having made the shift, she said enrolling in the SBA was the logical next step: “Being exposed to the learning and business environment after being a stay-at-home mom for 20 years has made all the difference, especially the mentoring aspect. I know that I can still learn at 50 – it has been life changing.”
Although still in start-up stage, she said the business had grown “immensely” in the time she was participating in the SBA, with turnover leaping from R1,000 last November to a current R13,000 a month.
Julie sells her pre-packed crunchies, brownies and biscuits to retailers in her local area and through agents who earn commission, and her vision is to develop a replicable model to enable other women to set up home-based businesses.
“Everyone has something they can do, like I bake, but have no idea of what it takes to run a sustainable business. Now that I have learned that, I want to teach other women how – get the finance, operations, marketing all in place, along with a plan for them to follow,” she said.
Port Elizabeth-born Vincent Zokufa has a vision to make sure that no learner leaves school without the basic IT skills needed for employment or for coping with tertiary studies.
“We find schools in impoverished areas have ICT infrastructure, but no specialist to look after it and a situation where most of the equipment is not working, often due to minor issues, and no one knows how to fix it. Access for the learners to use the computers then becomes extremely limited and sometimes is restricted only to those taking computing subjects,” he said.
With a mission “about more than profit – it’s about ensuring access to technology for all”, ConnectUs keeps its fees relatively low and also differentiates itself by training a learner or former learner in each school to do the basic maintenance and look after computer labs.
“We open doors for these kids to a future career direction. The school pays them from their budget, and they become our troubleshooter on the ground, calling us in when they can’t solve a problem,” he said.
Zokufa and his small team work with about 12 no- and low-fee schools and have extended their services to website and content development, “helping schools to tell their story and attract the resources they need”.
He said the SBA had been instrumental in helping him to “shape the business side of the organisation – even if we are not purely profit-driven, we need to remain a sustainable, viable business”.
The future plan is to grow the base of schools being served by looking at a subscription model for schools while also expanding into servicing other small businesses to generate income to supplement the services to schools.
“We are very proud of how far the three winners and all the participants on the programme have come in just nine months through increasing their knowledge and gaining practical business skills,” Dr Theron-Wepener said.
“It’s widely accepted that small businesses are the engines of economic growth and employment, and offer a logical route out of poverty, but many don’t make it past their first year because they lack business skills and the know-how to access finance and markets,” she said.
Now in its sixth year, the SBA addresses that gap, in partnership with corporate sponsors who also share their inside business knowledge and experience with participants, creating networking opportunities and better understanding of the linkages between small and large businesses.
Each participant is mentored by a USB MBA alumnus, and many cite this as the most valuable part of the learning experience.
Applications are now open for the 2019 SBA programme.
The programme is substantially sponsored, although a commitment fee is due by participants. Applications are done online – download the application form at https://www.usb.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Application-form-for-2019-WC.pdf and annexure here https://www.usb.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/USB_SBA_AnnexureA_2018_FC_WC.pdf.
Applications close on 25 January 2019 and the programme starts 11 March 2019.
For more information, call Benji Matshoba on 021 918 4937