UWC partnership empowers local entrepreneurs
Bheki Kunene, founder and managing director of Gugulethu-based creative design agency, Mind Trix Media, is one of the many entrepreneurs who is proud to have participated in the 2014 run of the Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in South Africa (EESA) programme.
The University of the Western Cape’s School of Business and Finance, supported by the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, has been hosting the six-week programme for the past five years, in partnership with students from four American universities – the University of Florida (who founded and leads the project), University of Colorado, Texas A&M University, and the University of Tennessee.
The students act as consultants, spending their mornings in class (together with local successful entrepreneurs and subject matter experts), followed by fieldwork with the clients in the afternoons, and research during the evenings.
Bheki is a veteran of the programme, having participated last year as well - and he believes it’s time well spent. “I am fortunate that this has been my second year with the programme, and my assigned consultants really helped me to put things into perspective,” he says.
He showed early entrepreneurial promise, selling peanuts from the age of 15. But he had a long way to go and a lot to learn along the way. At one point, he owned two vegetable stalls in his neighbourhood, but then sold them for R300 each. “I wasn't even factoring in the cost of the stall itself. I was young and had to learn the lessons the hard way,” he recalls.
He started Mind Trix in 2009 when he was only 19, employing eight people – five full-time and the other three part-time. The previous round of EESA participation helped Mind Trix concentrate on its core business, forging a strong professional network and focused work ethic. The challenge this time was dealing with that success.
One of his consultants, Jordon Roe of EESA, explains: “The challenge for Bheki's business was a lack of growth. They had a good client base, but they were at a point where they had to turn down clients. We identified what staff the company could benefit from and started the process of interviewing in order to hire more people.”
Jordon helped Mind Trix appoint a new administrator, allowing them to delegate tasks more efficiently, leaving more time for graphic design and an even better profit margin (the profit margin was already pretty good).
Bheki is pleased with the help. “When you're growing a company, taking the next step is important. I needed to move to the next level and EESA managed to help me do that.”
EESA is aimed at addressing the shortfall in entrepreneurial success in South Africa by aiding small businesses in developing sound business skills, thereby growing their businesses. The Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UWC consolidates and co-ordinates entrepreneurship and innovation activities at the University, highlighting student and staff successes, promoting the sharing of knowledge and expertise, and helping to develop an academic programme in entrepreneurship.