Entrepreneurs are radicals who break boundaries when it comes to their enterprises, yet the reality is that some institutions are more supportive to studentpreneurs than others.

This is what emerged during a panel discussion showcasing best practices in student entrepreneurship at the national launch of the EDHE Student Entrepreneurship Week, #SEW 2022 at the University of Venda (UNIVEN) last week.

Mr Nqobizwe Mahlangu (left), a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), who is also the Deputy Chairperson: EDHE Studentpreneurs Community of Practice (CoP), moderated the session. Participants were Mr Kutullo Paris Maponya (right), EDHE Studentpreneurs CoP member at the University of Limpopo, currently enrolled for Honours in Chemistry, and Ms Mutshinya Aluwani (middle), a member of the Studentpreneurs CoP at UNIVEN who is currently studying towards a B Com Accounting degree.

Mr Maponya (above) explained how, with just R40, he had started a business from his student residence in 2017, selling snacks, soft drinks, sweets, airtime and other products. One year later he used the profits to buy 70 egg laying chickens which have since grown to 1000 layers and 600 broilers. He has also diversified to grow and provide vegetables to students, the local community and street vendors to help improve the local economy and alleviate poverty and unemployment.

Ms Aluwani, for her part, is the co-founder of Rose Enterprise, a supplier of traditional clothing and other products.

Mahlangu asked: What entrepreneurial support does your university offer?

Aluwani:  UNIVEN offers both the ENACTUS and the Student Training for Entrepreneurship Promotion (STEP)programmes. We also take part in SEW and have the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity.

ENACTUS stands for en – entrepreneurial, act – action, us – united

Maponya: While the University of Limpopo also features these programmes, we also have the Development Innovation Hub, where they help students to create products while  receiving the business training they may require to succeed and grow their enterprises. We recently hosted a market where students were able to showcase their products and services.

Question 2: Societies such as ENACTUS are initiated by students, not universities, even though the university may support it. Do the universities have their own entrepreneurial programmes, such as incubators? Do they have policies in place to support students?

Aluwani: Sometimes we have challenges when it comes to staff members being involved, but ENACTUS is a global community which implements social economic development programmes. We do promote this programme and others so the university can be more interactive and involved with them.

Question 3: What milestones have been achieved at your institution?

Maponya: I see myself as a milestone at the University of Limpopo. I started my business when I was studying here so I am a product of this university. I received support from the Development Office and the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) who helped with intellectual property and other issues. Another ‘milestone’ or success story. which inspired students here, was when my fellow entrepreneur, Ms Mashoto Mphahlele, was named the winner in the Existing Business general category at the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021 for her cosmetics business Mash Organics.

Aluwani: Another milestone of UNIVEN emerged when Mr Promise Nyalungu took the 2020 EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Studentpreneur of the Year title.

Question 3: Some universities are actually funding their students. UKZN gives their students up to R100 000; it is not a competition and all students are eligible for this as long as they qualify.  As a Studentpreneur CoP member, what objective would you want to have achieved when you leave office?

Aluwani (left): I want the Student Women Economic Empowerment Project (SWEEP) programme membership at UNIVEN to have reached a minimum of 100 women, and for them to have opened or started businesses while attending this university. There will be so many milestones then that we will be able to celebrate.

Maponya: By sharing my own story and the lessons that I have learnt, I wish to see  people ceasing to believe that a lack of resources is a barrier to starting a business. Try to maximise and grow from what you currently have.

Mahlangu concluded that entrepreneurial support differs from institution to institution, and that this is the reality that students face on the ground.

“We want to move forward with a much more supportive environment for students and will strive for this. We are entrepreneurs who are radicals and who break boundaries. Let us write these policies, share them with students and implement them on the ground. Let us keep the ball rolling because unemployment is plummeting for graduates. We need more and more students opening their own businesses.”

Janine Greenleaf Walker is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.


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