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Young alumnus wins competition for entrepreneurs
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 14/09/2022

Former Diploma in Sustainable Development student in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Lindelwa Mahlalela, has the world at her feet. She was recently crowned the winner of the Motsepe Foundation's inaugural Golden Circle competition for the social exploits of her online business LeeConnect. She started the business from a public library in 2018.

Golden Circle is a platform for young, semi-established entrepreneurs who are searching for capital injections and looking to build national and international networks that will expand their impact and their capacity to do good. The competition received over 80 entries. The final three had to present their business case to judges Allan Raiz, Brain Dames, Brian Smith, Herman Singh and Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa. The winner was chosen based on strict criteria, including the ability of the business to address a social need and ensure financial sustainability.

Mahlalela said the competition gave her the opportunity to showcase the services that LeeConnect offer and the great social need that they are trying to alleviate. LeeConnect assists Grade 12 learners with university, college and bursary applications; career guidance; mentorship and extra classes to improve their marks.

“Winning the competition has given me confidence that there's hope and opportunities to take the business to an even bigger scale and help more learners. This is a great milestone that has elevated our standards of service and has given us the financial support we need to move to greater heights."

As the winner, Mahlalela walked away with a cash prize of R80 000 and business mentorship and support from the Motsepe Foundation.

Mahlalela, who was part of the second cohort of Diploma in Sustainable Development students in 2019 and graduated in 2021, said her studies have armed her with the necessary skills and information to not only be successful in this competition but also in her business.

“We used to do presentations which enabled me to enhance my skills and stand out from the crowd. Everything that we did was more practical than theoretical, and that's how it is in business, you have to implement. Design thinking has enabled me to come up with creative solutions to the challenges that we have faced as an online business, such as gaining the trust and understanding of your customers."

Her future plans for the business include scaling it to a level where they are able to not only inspire Grade 12 learners but also graduates who are seeking learning opportunities to acquire skills and experience. 

She recently registered at the University of South Africa for a BA in International Relations “because I want to expand LeeConnect in other African countries". She is also a qualified information technology technician.

But the Matie alumna's talents and passion hasn't just been confined to the entrepreneurial space. She also recently worked as an educator assistant at Salubindza Primary School in the Mpumalanga Province.

“I am passionate about education and it is my goal to educate people worldwide to believe in themselves and to follow their dreams," she said. “This job gave me the opportunity to plan educational events for primary school children, to make learning fun and to enhance their skills and talents outside the classroom."

She thanked her mother, Thobile Hlatshwayo, for supporting her dreams and helping her become the woman she is today.

The three-year Diploma in Sustainable Development is offered by the School of Public Leadership to ground students in principles of sustainability and entrepreneurship for future social impact and ecological restoration. The programme provides students with theoretical knowledge and practical experience in areas such as sustainable technologies, complexity and ecology, social entrepreneurship, leadership development, social activation, small business management skills, creativity and storytelling.​

  • A one-year Advanced Diploma in Sustainable Development will be offered from 2023. For more information, please attend the online information session on the Advanced Diploma in Sustainable Development on Wednesday, 21 September from 17:30 - 18:30 via MS Teams. To register for the online session, click here

  • ​Applications for the Advanced Diploma in Sustainable Development close on 30 September.

Lindelwa Mahlalela, Founder of LeeConnect, winner of Golden Circle of the Motsepe Foundation.