By Phophi Tshikovhi
This article can also be found in the print Edition 2 of VARSITY Newspaper.
UCT students start their own businesses.
“We do not have to search high and low, the best ideas are right under our nose, within what we love doing the most.”
Entrepreneurship is the art of going for it. These are the words coined by a recent graduate who knows the entrepreneurship road all too well. In a society that has normalized one pathway to success, we cannot help but celebrate people that dare to enter a daunting but worthwhile journey.
Today we choose to celebrate students, just like you and me, who saw a need in the community and decided to meet it. Many would say that entrepreneurship is a land of the brave but, quite frankly, it is a land of those who saw a need, feared how they would go about meeting that need and finally decided to just go for it!
Now the question begs: How do these students manage, in these exciting but demanding times, to manage their business and still stay on top of their school work? The first student I talked to is Rialivhuwa Tshikovhi, a Mechatronics Engineering student, who founded Braids by Riri in 2016. After Rialivhuwa grew tired of salons that were harsh on natural hair and their exorbitant prices, she started watching YouTube tutorials that would teach her how to braid her own hair. They say that practice makes perfect but, for her, practice brought precision.
Fast forward to 2018, Braids by Riri is still up and running and caters to UCT students who are also at the receiving end of a lack of ‘Afro sensitive’ salons and their sky-high prices. When asked how she balances her academics and her business, Rialivhuwa said, “I am only available during the weekend but if I have a less demanding week, I can slip in a session or two. I am a student before I am a hairdresser.” It is indisputable that there is a need for salons that are sensitive to natural hair and it is because of this gap in the hair industry that Rialivhuwa might take this as an opportunity to expand after getting her degree.
The next business is proof that there is absolutely no need to be searching for massive ideas that will shake the world. That simple idea can easily be just what is needed to change the game. Mosa Molepo is an Honours student in Architecture who started a cleaning service in order to lift off the added weight that comes with cleaning, particularly to students. At the moment, the business is solely run and, therefore, Mosa looks at what he can manage and how long it takes. “If it takes me more than what I am putting in my academics then I revert back to my books,” he says. Mosa and Rialivhuwa are living proof that we do not have to search high and low, that the best ideas are right under our noses, within what we love doing the most.
If you, like me, have been keeping your ears close to the ground lately, then you will have realized the tech start-up frenzy. One student who also saw an opportunity, in a place where many would have seen competition, is Mvelo Hlophe and his partners. KAZI is a tech start-up that was founded by Mvelo Hlophe, Thando Hlongwane, Akhil Boddu and Ntuthuko Mpaku. KAZI provides a platform to connect start-ups looking for mobile and web development with student-led development teams.
Start-ups are able to access more affordable developers relative to industry developers. Organizations can relieve their in-house development teams of the backlog of incomplete development work and student developers make money whilst gaining practical experience.
If you thought you needed the right set-up to start doing what you love, then think again. Not only was KAZI born out of a catch-up session at the cafeteria in November 2017, it was launched this past weekend. The launch was a success with Akro Capital as a partner and the event being closed off by serial tech entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Mushambi Mutuma.
When asked how he manages to stay on top of his studies, whilst running his business, Mvelo, a BCom Philosophy, Politics and Economics student, emphasised sticking to a schedule and planning for the day ahead. “I believe in relaxation because the only way to function properly is to rest. Above all, I have a great support system around me. My team, friends and family keep me motivated to push me,” he added.
The above mentioned businesses are but a few of the many that have been started. Jonga, founded by Ntsako Mgiba is a tech-start up and social enterprise that provides simple, low cost and most importantly community based alert systems for low to middle-income households. NISA finance, founded by Thando Hlongwane, links stokvels (savings groups) looking to grow their savings with small businesses that want to access loans for growth.
If you were looking for inspiration then look no further. The UCT community has its own young and budding entrepreneurs and we are here for them.