School of Business and Finance multi-university partnership empowers local entrepreneurs
Small business owners in South Africa often operate under adverse conditions, with very limited access to resources – especially sound business advice. At the same time, many students have a keen insight into the business world and a passion for helping others succeed.
The six-week Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in South Africa (EESA) programme, hosted by UWC’s School of Business and Finance (SBF), addresses both these problems by uniting the two groups, training South African and American students and sending them into townships to work with historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs.
The SBF has been hosting the six-week programme for the past seven years, in partnership with four American universities – the University of Florida (project founder and leader), the University of Colorado, Texas A&M University, and the University of Tennessee. The students spend full days learning and acting as business consultants – mornings in class (together with local successful entrepreneurs and subject matter experts), followed by fieldwork with clients in the afternoons, and research during the evenings.
Clients like Ronelle Steenekamp (35), a mother of two who resigned from a secure job at a big investment company two years ago to start her own company, RSA Learning and Development. It was a big step for this single mother from Richwood, near Bothasig, but she managed to provide for her family’s needs despite the many obstacles she faced.
Steenekamp, who is originally from Bonteheuwel, says the EESA 2016 Programme added immense value to her business.
“The programme was challenging, because we had to work together, but I was kept informed throughout and had to deliver on objectives timeously,” she notes. “The EESA consultants were really driven and highly skilled – not necessarily experts in my industry, but definitely experts in the process of business consulting. It’s a magic formula.”
The students guided her through the process of becoming SETA-accredited. They also created a new company logo and helped her develop her website – and did much more besides.
“The students analysed my business and saw I needed help – so they created a unique accounting system for my business,” she says. “And my business now complies with what is required and I find myself more eligible for opportunities because of it – a real milestone for me.”
The programme even helped Steenekamp on a personal level – and for entrepreneurs, that can be extremely important.
“The EESA programme helped me to identify my own strengths and weaknesses – and helped me see the effect they have on my business. It was great for my personal growth and great for my business. It was about personal development, which is key for an entrepreneur since you represent the business. ”
The success of the EESA collaboration has led to the extension of the programme for the next three years. And it’s just one of the SBF’s many efforts to consolidate and coordinate entrepreneurship and innovation activities at UWC and beyond, promoting the sharing of knowledge and expertise, and further developing an academic programme in entrepreneurship.