Fleeker Finance, a company that helps students build a credit score, is the brainchild of Mr Asonele Gevenga (right), a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) graduate from the University of Cape Town.
His idea won him the coveted prize and R20 000 in the Existing Business – Tech category at the 4th annual EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2022. There were 24 national finalists from all 26 South African universities – a number whittled down from 1682 successful submissions.
The Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme, which organises the annual Entrepreneurship Intervarsity, is a facility of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), implemented in partnership with Universities South Africa (USAf).
Gevenga began his pitch on 17 November saying that not having a credit history – which applies to most students and recent graduates – meant not being able to get credit. And if you were able to secure a loan, you would be charged exorbitant interest rates.
To illustrate his point, he told the story of Tshepang Mapiti, COO of Fleeker Finance, who, after graduating from UCT and finding a job, wanted to buy a car. “He was either rejected by all financial institutions or was asked to pay very high-interest rates. The problem is far-reaching – over 60% of credit applicants in South Africa are rejected for not having a credit history.”
Targeting 20 000 students
Fleeker Finance has found a solution by building a virtual card that helps students build a credit history through accessing small-value credit. “Our market has two million students. Fleeker Finance wants to target 20 000 of those in the next two years and 400 000 within five or six years,” he said.
Competition came from financial institutions and financial literacy apps. “What we at Fleeker Finance have done is bring the best of both worlds into one app. We help students to be financially literate and at the same time help them build a credit score.” His business model is straight forward: “We charge R12 for R100 access; R38 for R400 access.”
The fledgling finance company has a threefold marketing strategy: They partner with companies, with student organisations and also host residence events. “We have partnered with Job Box, a company that helps over 50 000 students to get part time jobs. In the pilot phase, 1000 students signed up and we have approved over 450 applications. Fleeker Finance continues to grow at 7% weekly,” Gevenga said.
One of the competition judges, Ms Michelle Chavkin, Founder of Michelle Chavkin Attorneys, asked where Fleeker Finance funding came from. Gevenga said they had won R50 000 in a UCT entrepreneurship competition in 2021 and had also secured funding through an investor friend.
Judge Philani Sangweni, Founder of Matsei Technologies & Consulting asked: “If someone told you that you are teaching people how to use credit irresponsibly – unsecured credit has many pitfalls; people abuse it and end up having a bad credit score – what would you say?”
Gevenga responded: “We have a rule at Fleeker Finance that says No Debt Trap. We give students access to small credit amounts of R100, R200 and in later stages R400 when they show responsible behaviour.
“If a student accesses R100, we will not give them more until they pay that back so we can ensure that they don’t pile up credit so that they’re deep in debt by the time they leave university.”
Judge, Mr Sakhile Xulu, Managing Partner at Seed South Capital said: “There are volumes of value in what you are doing. How quickly can you scale from your institution across all institutions?”
Gevenga said: “We want to leverage companies that are already targeting students so we can tap into that. We also partner with investment societies – we’ve worked with several universities to this end.” Xulu reminded him that the student was his customer, and the goal was to build a community. He cautioned him to be “wary of bringing in big institutions that might kill the community.”
Gevenga knows what it feels like to need a credit score. “I grew up in Khayelitsha, where I was raised by a low income earning single mother raising four children.” When he was in Grade 8, he attended the Golden Future Project, a community outreach facility based at UCT. Its mission is to provide effective and targeted academic support and resources to high-school learners with the hope of positively influencing their lives and encouraging them to reach their full potential.
“I fell in love with UCT. I learned that it was the best university in Africa and had produced great people. In Grade 10, I decided that I wanted to go to UCT.”
Keep at it
Gevenga’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to have persistence and grit. “These are key, because things won’t go your way most of the time. One should be flexible and adapt to different circumstances. But, also remember to enjoy the journey and learning.”
He thanked his support team, Lecturer, Professional Communication Studies, Alison Gwynne-Evans and Sustainability & Impact (Careers), Nadia Waggie. “Their help has been invaluable,” he said.
Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa