At the launch of the fifth Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition of the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme on Monday,13 March, Ms Zana Boshoff (right), Project Manager: EDHE, promised a bigger and better competition than the sector has seen before. EDHE introduced a new category, of Research-based Business.

“This category is designed to encourage the commercialisation of research by both students and university staff, to foster innovation and support the development of research-based startups,” Ms Boshoff told attendees at the virtual event.

The Research-based Business category is a fifth addition to the four categories that student entrepreneurs have been competing in since the annual Intervarsity was first introduced in 2019. The other four categories are New Business Ideas, Existing Business: Tech, Existing Business: Social Impact and Existing Business: General.

Since 2019, a total of 21 students representing a range of public universities have won, walking away with both trophies and cash prizes. Those who entered running businesses continue to grow them as they appreciate the value derived from the EDHE Intervarsity. The central purpose of this flagship project is to promote and showcase students’ promising business ideas and start-up enterprises, to show studentpreneurs the value of networking and to link them to potential investors in South Africa and beyond.  The Intervarsity also gives expression to EDHE’s first goal of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in all students and equipping them to start businesses while studying in a supportive university environment.

Boshoff further said while this competition is an arena to identify, recognise and showcase top student entrepreneurs across the 26 public universities, it is also a mechanism to inspire universities to support student enterprises.

She said in 2023, EDHE intends to grow the Intervarsity around already operational businesses, making these ventures a success and enabling them to attract investment. With this new shift, students would see students pitching New Business Ideas only up to the regional rounds as the focus, in the final round, solidifies on existing enterprises.

The sky is the limit

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, one of the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity partners and sponsors, was represented at the launch by Ms Nontando Mthethwa (left), Head of Public Affairs and Communications. She said different stakeholders have a duty to sponsor initiatives supporting youth to access business skills that enable them to contribute to positive change in society,

Citing some of South Africa’s challenges such as the ailing economy, job losses and the electricity crisis, Mthethwa said these form a perfect context to trigger entrepreneurial thinking in youth.  She added that considering what is possible in Africa, and what student entrepreneurs can achieve, the sky is the limit.

We must change society for the better

From the SAB Foundation, Ms Itumeleng Dhlamini (right), Manager: Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, reiterated that this competition was taking place in an environment of high unemployment, rising crime, gender-based violence and business-crippling load shedding.

Ms Dhlamini said the SAB Foundation’s partnership with Intervarsity 2023 signified a shared mandate and passion to support young people to improve their living conditions and contribute to communities’ welfare. The SAB Foundation therefore expected to see innovations that would propel South Africa forward and position it for a better, inclusive and prosperous future.

Summing up her organisation’s pride in being associated with EDHE, Dhlamini said “this is a partnership that works. We have seen EDHE’s strides in the university community, and the impact the programme has made on students.”

Some wisdom from the 2022 winners

Mr Matimba Mabonda (left), who won in the Innovative Business Ideas category and scooped the Studentpreneur of the Year 2022 award, implored entrants to keep their pitches clear, simple and straightforward. He said the business idea ought to be so clear that even a child understands it.

The Master of Chemical Engineering student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the founder of Lola Green, which manufactures construction materials from plastic waste, says he is responding to the growing demand for green and sustainable construction products.

Mabonda lauded the Intervarsity for its valuable business insights and encouraged the 2023 entrants to maximise the support tools available from EDHE and their institutions. What had worked for him in 2022 was constant practice and watching past winners’ presentations. He encouraged the 2023 cohort to adopt those techniques for better chances at reaching the finals.

The learning makes it worthwhile

For Ms Munashe Dzikiti (left), who just qualified in Law from the University of the Western Cape, some of her gains from the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity have been useful in her legal field of study. She also made long-term connections and grew her network.

Dzikiti, who won in the Existing Business: Social Impact category in 2022, is running eRank Play, a game teaching mathematics to primary and high school learners in a fun and interactive way. She admits that not every competitor will win, but she says the learning will be worthwhile.

Life experiences inspire business ideas

Ms Nicoline Kriek (right), Founder and Managing Director of the French Parfumerie, entered an already profitable business with intent to expand her network with mentors and strategic partners. Notwithstanding that she was already manufacturing over 250 fragrances and working on expanding to scented candles and diffusers, Kriek felt that there was still a lot to learn as an entrepreneur. That is exactly what she got from entering the Intervarsity, alongside winning in the Existing Business: General category.

Currently studying towards a Master of Law degree at UCT, Kriek urged peers to draw entrepreneurship passion from their life storie. Her parents’ financial struggle during her undergraduate years had spurred her into action.  She said that is how French Parfumerie was born. She even pronounced herself available to guide the 2023 entrants further, should they so need.

The process, henceforth

The entries will be open until 14 April. Thereafter, qualifying entrants will undergo internal rounds at their institutions from 08 May to 13 June. This will be followed by regional rounds across the Western Cape, Northern, KwaZulu-Natal, Central, Eastern Cape and Gauteng from 18 September to 27 October.

This journey will culminate in 24 finalists being selected to battle it out in Gauteng on 30 November, for the much-coveted Studentpreneur of the Year award with a cash prize of R100 000.

The competition is open to all registered university students (undergraduate and postgraduate, part-time and full-time). The Research-based Business category, as an exception, is open to both students and university staff, as long as students have at least a 51% ownership of the research-inspired enterprise.

As closing words, Ms Boshoff reminded aspiring studentpreneurs that the prize money is not the only ultimate goal of the annual Intervarsity. She emphasised that exposure, networking, feedback, skills development, funding opportunity and recognition were other benefits waiting to be gained from the competition.

For more information on how to enter, visit EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2023.

Nqobile Tembe is a Communication Consultant at Universities South Africa.

EDHE Intervarsity 2023 Articles