This week I was at the NW University in Vanderbijlpark again to assist in the incubator project. When I arrived on the campus I entered the (almost) finished incubator facility. It was impressive and I was excited to see that the facility had the same style as our new Launch Cafe in Groningen.
Last august we designed the facility on paper and the whole facility needed to be build from scratch. For African measures (also for Dutch) a realization period of 8 months is very fast. We are glad the first milestone is reached.
Next milestone: student entrepreneurs
A fancy facility is nice, but of course it is about the student entrepreneurs in the facility. At first I thought this was a hard job. The popularity of entrepreneurship in South Africa is modest. I was told that students are not aware or see a job as more attractive.
But since the beginning of the project we encouraged lecturers and other University staff to promote entrepreneurship. Every student needed to hear the message “you can get a job, but it is better to create jobs”. The last months rumors started on the campus that the University was building a place where students could start a business. It was bearing fruits. Last week dozens of students approached us to get more information. Their dream: Setup a successful business. Wow!!
To get the most ambitious students in the incubator we decided to start a business competition. I proposed to use the format of the Business Match Groningen. My colleague Koen Atema was chairman of this competition and was awarded a national price as best initiative to stimulate student entrepreneurs . The idea was to select around 25 students in May. We train the students to conceptualize their idea and pitch it. The top 10 wins a spot in the incubator. Early June we organize a cocktail party with important people from the public and private sector in this part of South Africa. During this event the 3 best students give a pitch to get attention, build up their network and try to get finance.
After the competition the entrepreneurs also have to opportunity to apply for funding. I was inspired by the TOP program of the University of Twente and I used their successful format. We already have € 50k in our fund and we hope that business angels and banks are willing to chip in.
“Is it all about business?”. That was a question of an ambitious student that approached me. He takes disadvantaged children off the street. He puts these children in a soccer team and after soccer practice he teaches them values and helps them with school. He was so passionate about it that he almost cried telling about it. He wanted to professionalize and expand his project but he didn’t know how to do it.
I explained him that setting up a business equals the creating value. His project does create value: it gives disadvantaged children a chance for a better life. Also in “social” entrepreneurship the important question is: “who is willing to pay for the value created?”. So I learned him to think about customers (like NGO’s, government, SCR departments), how he has to approach these customers and what the revenue streams are. I also told him to think about the resources he needs to build his organization. He became more and more excited and directly applied for the business competition. I hope his idea make it to the finals!
Late May I’m returning to the NW University to train the finalists. I am going to help them to setup a realistic business model and to give a mind blowing pitch during the grand opening of the incubator. I’m looking forward to it!!
Unfortunately I’m here only a couple of times a year so I can not experience the daily process. But every time I’m here I see that huge steps are taken. The local team working on this project is great. Herman, Ruan, Clarise and Tumi thanks for your enthusiasm and passion! See you again at the end of May!
Next stop for me
Uganda: Helping to setup a business model for sustainable bakeries in villages. 🙂