The winners of last year’s national EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity continue to inspire and motivate as they endeavour to take their fledgling businesses to new heights.
Four of the 2021 winners shared their stories and learnings at last week’s EDHE Lekgotla 2022, which was hosted by Nelson Mandela University under the theme #movetomarket.
Ms Chido Dzinotyiwei, Ms Mashoto Mphahlele, Mr Tinus Potgieter and Ms Tshegofatso Masenya were joined in a panel by Ms Itumeleng Dhlamini, Social Innovation Specialist at SAB Foundation; EDHE’s Senior Student Engagement Officer, Mr Sandile Shabalala, and moderator Ms Zana Boshoff, Project Manager: EDHE, Universities South Africa (USAf).
Who: Ms Tshegofatso Masenya, (right) a fifth-year medical student at the University of Cape Town at the time of her win.
Name of business: GoShare
What the business does: An online, donation-based crowdfunding platform that allows students to raise funds to cover their outstanding fees.
Awards: Overall EDHE 2021 Studentpreneur of the Year and winner in the Existing Business: Social Impact category
The journey: “With GoShare, the main aim is to democratise access to tertiary education, harness the power of community and cultivate a culture of investing in one another. It offers autonomy, security, dignity and transparency throughout the process.
“At the moment, we’re doing pool funding but we continue to develop our website in order to get to a place where students can have individual campaigns. While most donation-based crowdfunding is considered a once-off transaction, GoShare is different. The platform lists each individual’s circumstances. This means that donors get to know students on a completely different level. The platform also tracks student’s university progress and grants, donors, exclusive access to their student journeys from the minute the first donation is made until graduation day.
“No amount is too little. We want donors to know that we appreciate each donation and that each donation can make a huge impact in the lives of many students.
“Balancing my studies and my business can be a challenge. I have had to learn to prioritise and put time aside for each endeavour. Balance is important – sometimes you also need your own time with things outside both the academics and the business. You need a good support system to draw strength from.”
Her key pieces of advice: “I think it’s really important to have your ideas set out and you can get proof of concept without first building anything. Start with the small things, prove your concept, prove that it works, prove that you actually will have users before you start looking for funding because it can get very muddy if you haven’t sorted out the groundwork first.
“You need to be vulnerable as an entrepreneur. Figure out the blind spots that you might have missed because it’s your business. Be confident – your idea is only as good as the way you sell it. You need to create a narrative around it. Be cognisant of your own shortcomings.”
Who: Ms Chido Dzinotyiwei (left), Master of Commerce student at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) at the time of her win.
Name of business: Vambo Academy
What the business does: An educational online platform that teaches African languages and shares various aspects of African heritage whilst preserving its value. The language and communication skills learned on the Vambo Academy platform are ready for immediate use. It currently offers 12 African languages.
Award: Winner in the Existing Business – Tech category.
The journey: “You go further together. I was inspired by the other people who entered the competition, I was given incredible feedback and I was introduced to an invaluable network. I have applied for a number of grants and have been developing the second version of our platform and our app. We have started attracting clients from overseas. It started off by us driving to people’s houses teaching them languages and now we have an app being used on different continents.”
Key piece of advice: “Practise your pitch, talk to as many people as you can to share your ideas. They will ask you questions on aspects you may not have thought of; that is hugely beneficial.”
Who: Ms Mashoto Mphahlele (left), a 2021 final year Media Studies student at the University of Limpopo.
Name of business: Mash Organics
What the business does: Handmade organic skin and hair care products; specialising in African black soap and unrefined shea butter products — known to treat skin and hair problems like acne, hyperpigmentation and hair loss.
Awards: Winner in the Existing Business – General category.
The journey: Mash Organics has appointed four sales representatives in Johannesburg and Limpopo and the products are now available at Ladies Delight stores. “I learnt as an entrepreneur that you are able to sell your potential if people can work with it.”
Key piece of advice: “It’s really important to plan and do your research. Go to student entrepreneurship seminars and network. Be proud of yourself, preparation is key though. Understand all the ins-and-outs of your business.”
Who: Mr Tinus Potgieter (left), a 2021 final year mechanical engineering masters student at North-West University.
Name of business: BlomSkok Technologies
What the business does: A tech-based innovation enterprise that seeks to give farmers an early warning system on possible attacks using drone and AI technology. The security system can be adapted to patrol any large, difficult-to-navigate area such as wildlife reserves to protect rhino and wildlife, industrial plants or mining complexes.
Award: Winner in the Innovative Business Ideas category.
The journey: “It has been one step at a time. I had an idea but it wasn’t really fleshed out. The mentors and judges ask you questions that you haven’t even considered when you thought of the original concept. That is how you mature your business idea before you go to investors. “My concept is intricate and very complex and a lot of the development has gone into understanding all of the parts. The focus is now on understanding the drone technology and how you make it monetarily viable and to deliver a service of customised drones. I’ve also developed confidence – being able to speak in front of people, approach people and potential investors with my ideas.”
Key piece of advice: “You don’t have to start by purchasing anything, you can start with a concept and take it from there. Understand your business and your numbers. It’s imperative to speak to different people who have a different perspective to you. Also just start. You learn by making mistakes.”
EDHE’s Senior Student Engagement Officer, Mr Sandile Shabalala (above), gave an overview of the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity programme since its inception to where it is today and what will be taking place this year.
“The purpose of the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity is to identify the leading student entrepreneurs at the top 26 public South African public universities, recognise and showcase their businesses and invite investment into this cohort of student businesses. The goal is to develop entrepreneurship and allow the entrants and winners to showcase and grow their businesses. In the process, universities have the opportunity to showcase their entrepreneurial talent and demonstrate the ways in which they support and grow the next generation of business leaders.”
The first intervarsity took place in 2019 when there were 1155 successful submissions. In 2020 there were 1545 entries; in 2021 1468 and for this year 1682, 677 of which are from women.
Through the support of the SAB Foundation, EDHE has introduced the first pilot mentorship programme for the winners of 2021. This programme consists of a minimum of four one-on-one sessions and a monthly group session until October this year.
This year, the top intervarsity candidates participated in the Swiss African Science and Business Innovators Programme (SASBI). The event entailed studentpreneurs from different universities in Africa presenting their business cases to a panel of judges at a workshop held in Rwanda, with other participants joining online. Ms Chido Dzinotyiwei, one of the 2021 winners (see above) and Mr Mvelo Hlophe, the founder of Zaio and EDHE Intervarsity overall winner in 2019, represented EDHE and UCT and were selected to be part of a Swiss Residency Programme. They will visit Switzerland in August to introduce their businesses to potential international partners and investors.
Ms Itumeleng Dhlamini (right) is the Social Innovation Specialist from the SAB Foundation which has partnered with the EDHE Intervarsity for the past three years: “This is a highlight for us at the Foundation as we are very intentional about enabling social innovation. It’s a no-brainer to partner with an organisation that is on the ground, that has a very strong network at a university level and that is able to identify talent and young people who are making a meaningful difference in their communities and dealing with issues around unemployment.”
The 2022 EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity’s regional rounds take place from August 29 to September 7. The competition will culminate in the national finals on November 17 with the 2022 winners being announced at the prestigious EDHE Awards 2022 event to be held on November 18.
Janine Greenleaf Walker is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.