UWC Entrepreneurship: From Fellowship to a Lifelong Network
The UWC Entrepreneurship Fellowship was launched on Tuesday, 2 December 2014. The class of 2014 comprises a group of graduates who participated in the pilot Supplier Development Training Programme presented by the the University of the Western Cape’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) earlier this year, and sponsored by the Western Cape Government: Economic Development and Tourism.
The 19 Fellows were joined for the launch by managers from all the major banks, officials from the Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism Department, the Dean of the UWC Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, and the Director of the School of Business and Finance, and several successful business owners.
The Fellowship objectives are that the Fellows take part in activities while performing their full-time professional responsibilities. Fellows are provided with unique opportunities and experiences that are not typically available to any entrepreneur.
They attend workshops, and should be available for peer consulting, exchange and field service opportunities, and contributing to the advancement of knowledge in the development field. Fellows will also have opportunities to connect and collaborate with other distinguished change makers in the development field aligned to their industry.
"As a Fellow you will be exposed to training, access to information, opportunities for mentoring and peer-to-peer learning that will help you grow your business to the next level and provide you with skills that can take your business forward," explains CEI director, Charleen Duncan.
The Fellowship started as an incubation programme, but has transformed itself into a business support project where entrepreneurs can receive tried and tested advice from their peers, says UWC Finance and Services Executive, Abduraghman Regal. “It is an authentic engagement platform for small business owners to interact and learn from other fellows who have probably faced the same difficulty they are currently experiencing.”
New fellow Dudley Kearns, chef and owner of Chef's Connection, says the Supplier Development programme has provided him with invaluable insights into running a successful business.
Kearns left school in Grade 10 and started working in the hospitality industry. At 21, he was a soux chef, a trade he developed further by taking a job on a cruise ship. He later returned to SA where he and a partner started Real Foods, which "made any food you can think of".
But good ideas and talent weren’t enough. "We went from making a daily turnover of R1m a day to closing our doors within two years. I didn't have the experience I needed," he admits.
Several years later, he used his life savings to start Chef's Connection, which is going from strength to strength, catering for government functions and high-profile clients, as well as running the staff diner and student café at CPUT.
Solly Fourie, the head of department for Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism, applauds the programme.
"Our major focus is to create an environment that enables businesses to grow and expand,” he says. “One of our department's key aims is to support partnership between business, academia and government to deliver programmes and projects that will be successful. This is one of those projects."
The CEI aims to grow and promote entrepreneurship education, innovation and small business development. The Supplier Development Programme will be presented four times in 2015, along with other programmes which will allow graduates to have access to the UWC Entrepreneurship Fellowship.