A number of young people from the West Coast community of Noordhoek in Velddrif have started or expanded their own businesses after recently completing an entrepreneurial social impact programme driven by Stellenbosch University (SU), Bergrivier Municipality, the Velddrif Chamber of Commerce and West Coast College.
The Velddrif Entrepreneurship Programme aims to counter the “sense of hopelessness and worthlessness" induced by poverty, says programme head Dr Clive Coetzee, a senior lecturer in SU's Faculty of Military Science at the University's Saldanha campus. Participants are supported with the entrepreneurial skills they need not only to improve their own and their families' livelihoods but ultimately to address the community's economic and social needs.
The power of collaboration
The project is yet more proof of what can be achieved through purposeful partnerships. SU, the local authority, the business sector and other education stakeholders – all equally concerned about the youth in Noordhoek – pulled together to host the programme pilot, which took the form of a workshop series over 12 weeks from March to May. All stakeholders made available mentors to present on different business-related topics, while the municipality also supplied a suitable venue.
Not stopping at mentorship and advice, the programme also offered each participant financial support from SU's Social Impact Funding Committee to develop and grow their businesses. The youth even received business equipment worth R10 000 from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), as well as a three-year scholarship to study Business Management at West Coast College as an extension of the programme.
“The youth in Noordhoek bear the brunt of unemployment, a lack of perceived business opportunities, and the resulting social ills, such as social discrimination and exclusion, alcohol and drug abuse, crime and violence," Clive explains. This undesirable situation was the main catalyst for the initiative. “Driving through Noordhoek, I could see the lack of opportunities and the joblessness.
“We hope to transform this area into a prosperous and thriving place. The collaboration between all the stakeholders involved in the Velddrif Entrepreneurship Programme is crucial for reaching this goal, and for turning it into a sustainable, community-owned project that enhances entrepreneurship, job creation and wealth generation in Noordhoek," Clive adds.
Fired up about the future
Prior to the initiative, participant Sederick Nero already had a landscaping and gardening business. “My participation in the programme has improved my business skills and enabled me to learn from other young entrepreneurs' experiences," he says. “I now have better knowledge of how to work with my employees and clients, and manage my finances and marketing." Sederick has since redesigned his business to include home agriculture services as well, which has seen an increase in sales and improved his cash flow.
One participant has started a nail salon, while another has expanded her hair salon by managing her time and clients more professionally. A young furniture maker has introduced new ways to decrease some of his production costs, and his peer plans to open a butchery.
In addition, participants' attitudes and mindsets have changed for the better over the past four months, says Clive. “The youth are more excited about the future, and eager to address unemployment in their community. They now mean business."
Having an impact
“The participants' progress proves that the Velddrif Entrepreneurship Programme can significantly promote economic growth in Noordhoek," says Chevaan Peters, SU's manager of Knowledge Information Systems and Marketing in the Division of Social Impact. “It has been wonderful to observe the impact of the programme, and to see the participants' determination and commitment to adopt and apply business principles, concepts and practices that lead to opportunities and possibilities. I sincerely hope initiatives of this kind continue to expand."
Thanks to the success of the pilot, the Velddrif programme is set to continue. Recruitment of participants for the second instalment in August has already started in the broader Bergrivier municipal district. Clive encourages more stakeholders to get involved and help address unemployment and social decay on the West Coast. For more information, click here.
* The mentors who presented at the workshops are as follows (with presentation topics indicated in brackets):
- Dr Yolandi Fontaine (The psychology of an entrepreneur)
- Ms Sarifa Matthee and Mrs Brigitte Barends (Effective communication)
- Dr Clive Coetzee (Business plan development, SWOT analysis, Unique business points and competitor analysis, Business opportunity identification and market survey, Dragons Den)
- Mr Dandré van der Merwe (Business types and structure)
- Mr Basil Nefdt (SEDA business support)
- Dr Bernard van Nieuwenhuyzen (Budgeting and cash flow)
- Mrs Otsile Morake (Basic business accounting)
- Ms Audrey Lawrence (Selling is king)
- Mr Johnny da Silva (Social media marketing)
- Ms Sune Stassen (Business creativity)