2 - 4 November 2020 | Hosted by the University of the Free State

University of KwaZulu-Natal's InQubate showcases its success stories in entrepreneurship

At the three-day national Student Entrepreneurship Week (#SEW2020) that was hosted by Universities South Africa's Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme last week, the audience got to hear that the KwaZulu-Natal's InQubate has, in the past two years since its launch, approved 50 student-owned businesses for funding. In a conversation with the two #SEW2020 hosts, Ms Ntsiki Mkhize (NM) and Mr Sakhumzi Dukwe (SD), UKZN's InQubate Manager: Student Entrepreneurship, Mr Khutšo Ramontja (KR), explained how their support programme works, in developing student enterprises from ideation to fully-established, profitable businesses.

Mr Khutšo Ramontja

Setting the scene, Ramontja (left) explained that UKZN's InQubate runs two entrepreneurial development programmes:

  1. The Beneficiation Challenge, specifically designed for students who are at the ideation phase, and
  2. An Accelerator Programme for those students already running their own businesses.

He said UKZN had set aside a fund specifically to finance student-owned businesses. Those at the ideation phase have the opportunity to get up to R10 000 and this fund is utilised for prototypes and to enable students to share their ideas. Those who are already in business are eligible to get up to R100 000. UKZN has also allocated spaces on its various campuses for student-owned businesses.

NM: What are some of the challenges you face with students?

KR: There are students who should be confident because they have an amazing idea, but are not; and those who are overly confident, yet on presentation you see there is much work to be done. But what is significant is that we have training programmes. Irrespective of the level of confidence, we put entrepreneurs through our rigorous training programme through which we are able to channel or guide students accordingly.

Our success stories include a PhD student we funded two years ago who runs a detergent manufacturing business that is really doing well. She is on the verge of listing her product with one of the leading chain stores in the country. We are currently helping her with the certification that the funders need.

Ms Nomandla Ngcoya  and D CHEM products
dishwasher
pine gel
surface  cleaner
Ms Nomandla Ngcoya (far left), a PhD candidate studying Medicinal Chemistry, established D Chem Group, a detergent-manufacturing business, in 2017. This was a response to problems she had seen in her grandmother's rural village of KZN. People in that village were using one green bar soap for everything: to wash clothes, for bathing, for washing dishes and for cleaning floors. This inspired her to develop detergent for use in various household purposes. D Chem now generates 23 different products and distributes from a shop in Edendale, just outside Pietermaritzburg, and also through informal networks and direct selling.

We also support many students in the farming arena, many of them involved in crop farming, producing lettuce, cabbage, green peppers and spinach. Our agricultural entrepreneurs include an egg farmer and someone who wants to farm bananas.

Mongezi Dlamini

Anonaya Gardens is a hydroponic based farm founded by two students, namely Mr Mongezi Dlamini (left), pursuing a BSc in Cell Biology and Microbiology and Mr Sihlosokuhle Mfeka, studying MSc in Biological Science, respectively. Hydroponics is soil-less gardening that grows plants in a mineral solution. This method is said to outperform traditional soil farming as it produces high quality products over a comparatively shorter period of time, using far less water than conventional farming.

Anonaya Gardens grows heirloom tomatoes, a variety of peppers, broccoli, cauliflowers, cucumbers, and baby marrows. Having been in business for about two years, Anonaya has by now become an established enterprise.

NM: What support do you give students?

KR: We have those in the ideation phase and then those who are already in business. Those who are in the ideation phase go through a week-long programme where they learn about market research and how to do a business model canvas. We also help them to refine their business ideas. Once they have submitted their business model canvas as well as their cash flows we determine how much we will give them – there is a maximum of R10 000.

Those who are already in business are taken through a six-week development and training programme. At the end of that period they have to put together a business plan, and based on that plan we decide how much to give them. Of the 50 that were approved for funding in the past two years, 20 have actually received financial support. Overall, since 2018, we have trained around 200 students, half of whom got their training in 2020.

SD: Khutšo, has the entrepreneurial culture and student confidence changed over the years through increased exposure?

KR: I must be honest, I am quite amazed by the students of today. When I look back to when I was a student 20 years ago – and I have been involved with students for the last 19 years – the students of today are much more entrepreneurial. The kind of ideas that they are coming up with are mind blowing.

SD: Do you have an award system at UKZN?

KR: We help those entrepreneurs with potential, who are really doing well, to grow their businesses. If we see potential in their business we give them up to R100 000 and also link them to funding institutions. Those we see showing potential we help by securing space on campus for them to operate their businesses.

I have to share a success story. One of our students, 19 years of age, is selling a hairpiece online. She is based in KwaZulu-Natal while most of her clients are in Gauteng. She started the business just over a year ago with R5 000 and today she's making a turnover in excess of R20 000 a month.

SD: What are the different types of entrepreneurs that you cater for, at UKZN?

KR: We have entrepreneurs in different industries. There are those in the service industry and some are into tech. We have an entrepreneur who has developed a system to help medical professionals to manage their filing system.

Clinalytics (Pty) Ltd is owned and managed by Mr Jabulani Michael Nyembe, a UKZN Bachelor of Business Science student who already holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology degree from the University of Pretoria. Dealing in web-based computer software, Clinalytics offers efficiency and data-based consultancy services to medical doctors. Their software, which stores and analyses patient medical information, seeks to improve administrative efficiencies for general practitioners.

Our entrepreneurs cut across age groups and fields. In previous years you would mainly have found people who are in the commerce or business faculties. Today, students in art, education, engineering, in every faculty, are starting businesses. And the spread is across the board - students in first, second or third year; students doing their Honours, Master's or PhDs, students from different age groups (our oldest is 29). But what we are seeing is that the majority of our student entrepreneurs are definitely women.

Ms Linda Lindani
Clinalytics (Pty) Ltd is owned and managed by Mr Jabulani Michael Nyembe, a UKZN Bachelor of Business Science student who already holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology degree from the University of Pretoria. Dealing in web-based computer software, Clinalytics offers efficiency and data-based consultancy services to medical doctors. Their software, which stores and analyses patient medical information, seeks to improve administrative efficiencies for general practitioners.

NM: Are you open to supporting students who are outside your university?

KR: For now, we are only focusing on students enrolled in our institution.

More information can be accessed on UKZN's InQubate via: http://inqubate.ukzn.ac.za/organizational-structure/

UKZN was just one of the 20 universities and four technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, which showcased their entrepreneurship activities at last week's Student Entrepreneurship Week. This annual campaign raises awareness of entrepreneurship as a career. It also seeks to impress upon students that employment is not the only avenue via which they can participate in the economy.

Charmain Naidoo is a freelance writer commissioned by Universities South Africa.

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