When the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme bestowed the EDHE Awards on the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2022 winners, and on universities’ qualifying key entrepreneurship players on 18 November, the programme’s value in the university sector was affirmed.  

As the 24 finalists were waiting to hear whose business idea and businesses won the competition, two of the 2021 winners shared their experiences and how they have benefitted from the journey that started with EDHE.

Winning the EDHE award was a stamp of approval

Ms Tshegofatso Masenya (left), Founder of GoShare, who won in the Existing Business –Social Impact category and went on to scoop the Studentpreneur of the Year award, says after winning in 2021, GoShare has grown tremendously. This is an online crowdfunding platform that enables needy students to raise funds to cover their tuition fees. 

“We have been able to build and maintain a platform that drives our vision and curates a brand that speaks to our core values,” she said. “We have access to an incredible network within the EDHE space and beyond; and have been able to assist students, the cornerstone of our mission.” 

Masenya lauds EDHE not only for creating a platform for student entrepreneurs to actualise their aspirations, but also for intentionally becoming partners with those students and building an ecosystem where they can grow. Add to that, constant support and encouragement. 

She reminded the 2022 finalists that theirs was an intense and equally rewarding challenge as entrepreneurs, calling them self-starters seeking out problems and crafting solutions for lasting impact.

“It is no secret that entrepreneurship has the capacity and capability to drive economic growth and increase productivity to create employment and further address societal challenges. So, spaces like this are not only exciting; they are necessary for the future of our country.” 

Looking back to 2021 and her journey with EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity, Masenya says she walked in with nothing but an idea and a business that steered up her passion. 

“But winning the EDHE was not just an incredible feat for our team; it also served as a stamp of approval and gave us the much-needed validation to do that which GoShare set out to achieve,” she said. 

Masenya admitted that they had had their fair share of curveballs but maintained that those were some of the experiences that shape entrepreneurs. Through all of those, she says she has witnessed personal and professional growth she would not trade for anything in the world. 

She went on to cheer up the finalists for taking a bold step while reminding them that the road ahead remains quite long. 

“Today’s ceremony is a celebration of your success, having made it this far. To those who do not walk away with the prize, you can choose to see this as the beginning or the climax of your story, but it does not have to end.”

“To the winners that will carry on the baton until next year, you have at your disposal, amazing mentors, support and resources that will propel your idea further. Take advantage of all of it.”

Many doors have opened through EDHE

For Ms Chido Dzinotyiwei (right), Co-Founder of Vambo Academy, winning the competition opened many doors for the enterprise, which provides an online platform for teaching and learning African languages, translations, promotion and preserving indigenous languages and heritage. 

Vambo Academy won in the Existing Business — Tech category.

Dzinotyiwei narrated how, upon winning, one of the judges nudged her to enter the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards competition by the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO). Their objective is to also support student entrepreneurs and expand their growth capacity. At the time, she felt it was too big a stage to even think about such a step. However, the judge implored her to take the leap, and she did. In that competition, she says there were over 500 applications from student businesses across the globe. They were selected to go in the first round. Lo and behold, Vambo Academy made it to the top six and was among the stories that the competition documented and the only one from the African continent. 

After that, Dzinotyiwei says the business received a lot of press attention, which inadvertently put them under pressure, having not prepared for such a turn of events. She therefore cautioned the winners that it could also happen to them, adding that, at the end of the day, this was about building the business. 

She said to the 2021 cohort, this challenge meant asking for help, and EDHE assisted in managing the pressure of being a startup in the limelight. 

Furthermore, Dzinotyiwei mentioned an opportunity that came through EDHE this year to participate in a startup programme in Switzerland. She had to pitch at an Academy-Industry Training: Swiss and African Science and Business Innovators Programme (AIT-SASBI) Conference. She says this happened very suddenly. Thus, she appealed to the studentpreneurs to have their pitch decks ready at all times and stay prepared. 

AIT-SASBI is a Swiss government initiative sponsored by the University of Basel. It is an exchange programme that funds 10 student businesses in Switzerland to come to Africa and the same number from this continent to Switzerland. Participating African countries include Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.

Dzinotyiwei says through this programme, they travelled across Switzerland and met people in the startup ecosystem. Since Vambo Academy is an ed-tech business, they were introduced to EdTech Collider, one of the largest ed-tech organisations in Europe. Through that experience, she says she received sound advice and learned best practices for their enterprise to thrive. 

Having shared her journey, Dzinotyiwei encouraged the finalists to reach out to her as she was willing to help them prepare for this conference and the pitching opportunity for the SASBI residency programme. EDHE has partnered with and will host AIT-SASBI Spring Conference in February 2023, concurrently with the EDHE 2023 Kick-off event. 

“It was an amazing opportunity,” she says. “None of what has happened and keeps happening in our businesses would have happened without starting off at EDHE… there is so much I have not mentioned, and I am so grateful.”

She went on to prompt the studentpreneurs to build communities for themselves around building a startup, saying even though someone may seem to be competition, they are, in fact, an ally. 

“Work together. This world is so big. Let us all build together and ensure that we all succeed.”

Nqobile Tembe is a Communication Consultant at Universities South Africa.

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