Develop the mindset of an entrepreneur, no matter what your age may be. If you don’t move to market today, nobody is going to do it for you tomorrow.
This was the clear message from student entrepreneur Ms Mutshinya Aluwani who shared the story of her business, and the lessons she has learnt as a young businesswoman, at the recent national launch of the EDHE Student Entrepreneurship Week (SEW).
Aluwani (above) is the co-founder of Rose Enterprise, a business that sells traditional clothing as well as other products. She is studying towards a B Com Accounting degree at the University of Venda (UNIVEN) and is a member of the EDHE Studentpreneurs Community of Practise (CoP).
She called on student entrepreneurs to be proud: “This is a privilege for a Black child. Although it is a long journey, entrepreneurship is the future for the youth. My message is that if you haven’t started something now, start today. Make an action today, move to market today. I can’t stress this enough.”
She recalled her entrepreneurial journey: “For me it feels as if I have been in business forever. My mother started a business to provide for her children. Today we are the founders of Rose Enterprise and it is blooming! It wasn’t always easy, there were challenges to overcome and I realised I had a lot to learn about the business of business.”
Aluwani said perseverance was key.
“If you don’t have the heart, you will not succeed. An enterprise needs someone with a big heart in order to succeed. I have tried many different options in diverse marketplaces. You’ve seen women selling in the markets; I know that experience. You can talk about catering; I know that experience. You can talk about African bracelets; I am your girl. You can talk about water supply and the challenges around it; I am your girl. I can even make vegetable achar. You can talk to me about angry or difficult customers; I’ve been there. Your journey isn’t going to be easy but you have to keep going.”
She also stated that agility to try out different things was critical.
Some of Rose Enterprise’s merchandise
“Entrepreneurship needs someone that is strong and that can adapt. The CoViD-19 pandemic hit while I was still working in marketplaces and everything closed. While other students were doing classes online, I was also on the phone selling masks just to make sure that the family didn’t go hungry – the first day I came back with R2000 from one day’s sales. I’m not talking about a mask that was made by someone else that I just resold; the masks were made by my mother.”
Mutshinya continued to pay tribute to her mother who is both her mentor and role model.
“I have learnt through my mother’s experiences. The knowledge she is passing onto me is my inheritance. It means that I would not go hungry should she die tomorrow. We are growing an inheritance that is going to go on to her grandchildren.”
Mutshinya says that she brings her own skill set to Rose Enterprise.
“I source the raw materials and take care of customer care. I am also able to think quickly and identify new opportunities.”
She encouraged the live audience, and those online, never to limit what their business does and continue to seek out new opportunities.
“You need to be diverse. Here, at UNIVEN, we need to look at the potential customers we have right here on campus. If you look around so many people want to have their nails done and are prepared to spend money on this so look at training to be a nail technician.
“What is also vital is that if you want your business to grow and succeed, you need to sell first. You also need a presentation; a good presentation marks a good reputation. After you’ve sold, go and start production but never over produce otherwise you will have items that expire or just sit and don’t earn you money.”
When it was announced that it was no longer mandatory to wear masks, Aluwani said that they quickly adjusted their mind-set and set up a new business.
“I hear people say that their business is selling scones but they must be happy to do more than that. Explore what will uplift and expand your business.”
She encouraged students to join organisations on their campuses that aid and support entrepreneurial activity: “At UNIVEN we have ENACTUS UNIVEN as well as other programmes. Do something for yourself and make that move. Anything is possible.”
Janine Greenleaf Walker is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.