Young South African entrepreneurs recognised for community-driven business ideas

A select group of 18 young entrepreneurs from across the country showcased their community-driven business ideas at the annual JA South Africa Company of the Year Competition, held at Citi Bank Plaza, Sandton on 14 July 2016.
The Competition, which acknowledges the growing importance of entrepreneurship among young South Africans who have the potential to contribute towards the country’s economic prosperity, is hosted in partnership with Citi. It highlights business ideas conceptualised by grade 10 – 11 learners participating in JA South Africa’s Mini Enterprise- and Entrepreneurship Academy Programmes.
The winning team was Core Vortex from McAuley House that presented decorative jars made from recycled material. They were awarded with a cash prize for their school, flights for the team and a chaperone to Harare, Zimbabwe to compete in the JA Africa Regional Company of the Year Competition taking place in December 2016.
Second and third place were awarded to Glamorous Creations from Stanger Manor Secondary School, KwaZulu Natal for its Medical Alert Bracelet that allows a person to carry vital medical information on them in style and Flip To Fold from Malibu High School, Western Cape that presented a clothes- folding device made from recyclable material respectively.
“Our experiential programmes run throughout the year and ignite a spark in young people to experience and realise the opportunities, realities and challenges of the working environment,” says Nelly Mofokeng, acting managing director of JA South Africa. “The creative business ideas put forward at this year’s Company of the Year Competition is testament to the success of our programmes.”
The learners, from nine different schools across South Africa, were selected to pitch their team business plans to a panel of external judges. All qualifying teams first attended a series of mentorship workshops leading up to the competition to help improve their business ideas, problem-solving, leadership and presentation skills.
Judges’ assessments were based on a number of criteria, including business idea clarity, the team’s ability to think critically, understanding basic business principles and the sustainability and relevance of the product or service to embodying social responsibility.
“Citi has funded JA experiential in-school and out-of- school programmes through a global partnership spanning over 30 years. We are proud to partner with Citi SA on this momentous occasion for the second consecutive year,” says Mofokeng.
“The Citi Foundation is focused on providing youth with the career readiness tools and opportunities needed to thrive in the 21st century economy. Together with JA South Africa, we are helping youth build an entrepreneurial mindset, acquire leadership, financial and workplace skills and begin to engage in the formal economy.  The Company of the Year Competition has been nothing short of phenomenal. The teams showed real business acumen and presentation skills, which is rarely seen in entrepreneurs this young,” said Citi SSA Head of Trade and Treasury solutions, Peter Crawley.
Schools who were selected to participate in the Company of the Year Competition are:

School Business name Product / service description
Vulamazibuko High School in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape Royalty Seasonal school uniform with scarves, hats and rain jackets that can be branded for the school
Stanger Manor Secondary School in Stanger, KwaZulu Natal Glamorous Creations Emergency charm bracelet to allow the person wearing the bracelet to carry vital medical information on them in style
Phl Moraka, Sikhululekile and Makgetse High Schools in Hammanskraal, Gauteng Omnipotence Brooms and stationery containers made from recycled materials
McAuley House in Parktown, Gauteng Core Vortex Decorative jars made from recycled materials
Malibu High School in Blue Downs, Western Cape Flip To Fold Clothes-folding device made from recyclable materials
St Anne’s High School in Bapong Village, North West Mvelo Holdings Mobile movie screening and refreshments station
Motse Maria High School in Ga-Mashashane, Limpopo Lucrative Corporation Range of themed, beaded bracelets for various major events and special occasions.
Suikerland Secondary in Malelane, Mpumalanga Victors Incorporated Custom-designed pens with a rubber grip for comfortable writing, topped with erasers shaped like each of the ‘Big Five’ animals
Vuyolwethu High School in Ipeleng, Northern Cape Young Explorers Delectable range of themed toffee-apples

About JA South Africa
Junior Achievement South Africa (JA South Africa) is a non- profit organisation affiliated to JA Worldwide (, one of the largest business education organisations in the world, operating in over 120 countries. For the past 37 years, JA South Africa has been providing essential entrepreneurial and financial literacy programmes to young people of all ages, across the country, in both rural and urban environments. JA’s unique, experiential programmes ignite the spark in young people to experience and realize the opportunities and realities of work and life in the 21st century.
Article courteosy of tribeca public relations

Proudly South Africa – Telling an entrepreneurial story?

Proudly South African Entrepreneurs

Chatting to business owners exhibiting at the Buy Local Summit was inspiring. So inspiring that I almost entirely missed the official programme. Dragging myself away from the businesses exhibiting I attended the sessions after lunch. Over three sessions I was left with a distinct sense that the Proudly South Africa lacked a strategy and an identity. The panelists all emphasised useful points on the need for leadership in South Africa, social dialogue and raised a couple of interesting experiments in supply chain and franchising. Nothing wrong with these statements, but there was little or no attention on how this related to increasing the demands for South African products by South Africans. It is typical of all conferences in South Africa, general calls for leadership without what conference goers call ‘actionable insights’. As I listened to the interviews on radio and TV on the event, my sense of a directionless campaign grew, despite me nodding to the fact that buying local was good for economy.
The Buy Local Summit is the premier event for Proudly South Africa, an organisation aimed at promoting South Africans to buy local goods and services. The official message from leaders inside and outside of government was that buying locally was patriotic, was supportive of job creation and contributed to the economy of South Africa. Outside in the exhibition space, business owners emphasised not the link between my wallet and my patriotism, but rather the link between their product or service and how it could help me. For example, businesses focussed on designing products, focused on the innovativeness or uniqueness of the product. Next, they emphasised international quality of their products, and that they were fairly priced. I quizzed them on whether they thought South African were not patriotic by not buying more South African products, and they argued that the real problem was customers knowing about the product. Those in manufacturing and construction always added that they found it difficult to compete with the ‘big boys’. Most importantly, they understood Proudly South Africa not as patriotic buying, but rather that the country has lots going on and that they could compete internationally. Herein, may lie a future direction for Proudly South Africa campaign. A campaign that emphasises the uniqueness, quality and price points of local products.

Learning from Shot ‘Left

The Shot ‘Left campaign offers a way to illustrate what is possible. The campaign emphasises memories, fun and family all within South Africa. The Shot ‘left campaign asked the nation to change our perception, offering memories, fun and quality time. They were not arguing that the intrinsic value of the South African tourism offering was one of patriotism, but rather than great and affordable holidays are possible in South Africa. In a way it transforms what it means to be South Africans, especially for families who have never had a holiday before. It opened markets and created a new segments. This is important, because the process sees government and social partners working together to create new markets, through an exceptionally targeted campaign. In short, it is an effective and positive marketing campaign with none of the policy babble, although its motivations are to reach a policy objective of growing tourism by South Africans in South Africa. Proudly South Africa needs to do something similar. It is a marketing organisation, and needs to devise a marketing strategy that emphasises the intrinsic value of South African experience. What would such a marketing campaign focus on? First, it would deal with questions of quality of South African products, erroneously regarded as inferior to imported goods Second, it will reposition South African goods as being ‘cool’ and well designed, emphasising the intrinsic value of South African brands. Third, it would have a very specific target audience for its marketing campaign, not a broad appeal to conscious of South Africans.

Creating local demand

Now, one might be wondering what this tells us about human nature. Should an appeal to patriotism not be enough?
The problem with the current message is that it is not actionable, even for patriotic ethical consumers who are seeking local products. The problem is magnified for consumers not already convinced to buy local products. A marketing campaign linked to easy ways to find and purchase South African goods would make Proudly South Africa relevant. It would offer an important platform for South African companies, especially those that produce manufactured goods, a way to reach a wider audience. In so doing, the benefits of having many smaller businesses and more employment would be more realisable. The clarion call to patriotic shopping needs to be replaced with a message that South African products are cool and quality products. This change in the marketing strategy in itself is an important starting point, but will require complimentary initiatives to help growing businesses operate and succeed in the South African economy. Much of the wider economic strategy is outside the ambit of Proudly South Africa, but it can play a crucial role in creating demand for locally produced products and services.

10 Myths of Entrepreneurship

Amongst the many myths of entrepreneurship, the most jarring is the existential question:

Am I really an entrepreneur? 

This is the self-doubt that almost every entrepreneur faces at some point. The reasons for this self-doubt are many, and include the hero status that some entrepreneurs have. In the face of outstanding success by these entrepreneurs we wonder whether we have the insight, determination, product and skills to build what we dream. The narrative is intended to empower, but may have the opposite result.
The video below dispels several of the myths associated with entrepreneurship, including understand who and what entrepreneurs are. The video draws on the excellent work of Saras Sarasvathy, who has introduced the concept of “effectuation” to the entrepreneurial world. The video starts with super entrepreneurs, and helps us to learn lessons. Most importantly, through understanding the myths, it helps us deal with self-doubt and get started.

 Myths Of Entrepreneurship

The important learning for me from this video are:

Entrepreneurship is Not Extraordinary

At one point for all of us, riding a bike was extraordinary. After a few stumbles and bruised knees we learned to ride a bike. In doing that riding a bike became both enjoyable and ordinary. In the video the same point is argued, entrepreneurship should not be viewed as extraordinary, but that each of us have this capacity.

Start with available means

I have seen business plans that need such huge investment that no bank or investor are likely to finance it. The ideas underlying the business plan are often sound and sometimes inspiring. The problem is that it is just a plan, the company has literally no customers, and they have not taken the time to test their idea. Starting at a different point would help these entrepreneurs. They should instead start with what their available means. Tapping into networks, using money to build a prototype or even getting commitments from potential clients are all within our available means. It may even help getting finance for your business, but more importantly it may allow you to bootstrap your business or in the worst case realise that your idea is not that good.

Multiple Goals

Personally I have many, many ideas. This creates a huge problem of focus for me, and everyone tells me that I need to focus on one idea. Effectuation looks at ideas and actions differently. It encourages having various possible goals and to develop solutions to these specific problems. Importantly, it asks you to reassemble your available means in creative ways to reach a goal. A word of warning though, managing multiple ideas, goals, action plans and customer service is extremely difficult, and not what I am suggesting.

The learning point is rather not to  fixate on one outcome, but rather be open to various endpoints.

This is a lesson we learned at Zapreneur. I started this looking to develop an online publication focussed on economic inclusion and small businesses. My intention was to run this as a paid subscription model. In the process we learned that South African entrepreneurs have a very different set of problems, and that we could develop small and useful online applications that could solve real problems. Proposal Desk is our first attempt.

Affordable Loss

Dreaming of making a million bucks in a year or even a month? Dreaming of buying an island? Stop!
Rather than focus on the upside, focus on the downside potential. Knowing how much you can afford to lose is vitally important. It provides a constraint to your ideas, and as a result brings discipline, effectiveness and reduces financial stress. In fact, go so far as to have a very specific number in mind. You need to know for instance that, I am willing to lose R 10 000-00, and willing to invest six months of time into starting this business. Knowing that allows you to plan your expenses, pay the kids school fees, design a realistic marketing plan and know your breakeven point.  That is an incredibly empowering position to find yourself in.

Create The Future, Do Not Predict It

The exciting part of entrepreneurship is that we have the opportunity to create products and services that make the world a better place. Through using principles like affordable loss and using available means, creating the future becomes more action orientated .  See you at the start line !
(Over the next few weeks, I hope to discuss effectuation in greater detail and with examples. )