Sal Govender, Vice Predident of Bureau Veritas addressing the audience during the opening day of the entrepreneurship week.
The aim of National Student Entrepreneurship Week is to raise awareness of entrepreneurship and equip students with skills to start and run a business. The 2019 week focused on supporting and equipping potential student entrepreneurs to take practical steps to start businesses that could be sustainable and scalable, #SEW2019 #BeyondIdeas.
According to Dr Edgar Nesamvuni, Executive Dean of the Faculty, “Entrepreneurship must become a career option for students. We need to ensure that we create opportunities as career options for students. We will assist and support you throughout your journey to enable you to complete your studies and start viable businesses,” he said.
“The unemployment rate in South Africa remains high. If you break it down, the youth unemployment statistics are the highest and the best solution is entrepreneurship,” he added.
Addressing the audience Dr Kgomotso Masilo, Head of Department, said, “The event also aims to address issues of graduate unemployment and the need for universities to become more entrepreneurial.” She added that from 2020 the department would offer a new Diploma in Entrepreneurship, which will require students to have operating businesses upon completion of the qualification.
Sal Govender, Vice-President of the global testing, inspection and certification company, Bureau Veritas, shared the importance of standards for entrepreneurs with the audience. “Students often have stunning ideas and their imaginations run wild, but as time goes by real life happens and these tend to ideas die,” she said. She added that the obstacles budding entrepreneurs face, include financing, getting to know the right people and access to investors, which could cause the ideas to fade away. “Never give up on your idea and continuously remind yourself of your passion to fulfill that dream,” she concluded.
Kid Nkantsu, Operations Manager at Danone addressing theaudience during the second day of the entrepreneurship week.
Jean-Claude Lasserre, CEO of Saint Gobain, said the key for students to evolve and accept different visions is training. He also emphasised the importance of passion, “We have many great employees, but the main differentiators between great and super great are accountability and the capacity for passion,” he said. “To learn, to test, to try, to fail; these are the things that await you as an entrepreneur. You have to know it from day one,” he concluded.
Speaking on the second day, Gilles Antoine, County Manager for L’Oreal, South Africa, said digital has changed much of our businesses in the past seven years. We must be able to adapt to change and use these digital transitions to enhance our business ideas,” he said. He added that most companies, especially, L’Oreal, want to be close to the University so that they can leverage the expertise of the students.
Kid Nkantsu, Operations Manager at Danone, told students that successful business enterprises exist to solve problems. According to him, money is secondary to Danone that has a turnover of R24 billion a year globally, “We want to bring about change in society and make a difference in the lives of our people. Businesses are not only about profiteering, but rather about doing the right things ethically to uplift society,” he said. He also emphasised the importance of mentoring and told students never to stop learning.
Fanafikile Lephakha, a Life Coach, said if you are not willing to fail in your quest to achieve what you want, you should never become an entrepreneur. “My journey started when I realised what I wanted to do and my businesses grew because I was willing to learn from my mistakes and accept advice,” said Fanafikile.
“People must learn how to market and sell themselves and how to handle rejection. Approximately 90% of investors will initially refuse to fund your business idea or proposal. The reason we fail in our businesses, is often because we don’t know how to overcome fear of failure,” he concluded.