Students and staff participating at the Student Entrepreneurship Week.

Students and staff participating at the Student Entrepreneurship Week.

Placing Student Entrepreneurship in the Forefront

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), in partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), recently hosted its annual Student Entrepreneurship Week (SEW) initiative aimed at inspiring students to make entrepreneurship their career of choice as a solution to South Africa’s dire rate of unemployment.

The two-day event which was held at the Howard College, Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses, saw UKZN InQubate, under the student entrepreneurship programme “ENSPIRE”, host an Elevator Pitch Campus Challenge at the Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses respectively. This challenge involved UKZN students pitching innovative business ideas in three minutes to a panel of judges for a chance to join the ENSPIRE programme and stand a chance to access a business support package valued up to R100 000.

While the College of Law and Management Studies hosted the Westville campus programme which involved UKZN students who are entrepreneurs showcasing their businesses in exhibition format as well as established entrepreneurs and public and private companies including Telkom, Ithala, KwaZulu-Natal Music Industry Association (Kumisa), Iziko Stoves as well as the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department (EDTEA) who informed the students of opportunities available to them.

Ms Lindiwe Kunene, Entrepreneurship lecturer and Student Entrepreneurship Community of Practice National Chairperson who was spearheading the initiative, said the vision of this project is to create and promote awareness about entrepreneurship as a career, equip students with basic skills and knowledge in entrepreneurship and stimulate innovation and grow a community of young entrepreneurs.

‘Many of the youth who are graduating from Higher Education are socialised to expect employment opportunities to be readily available for them when they complete their qualifications. The reality of the matter is that more and many of them will not find employment, thus they need to be equipped with the ability to create their own ventures. It has been due to this reason that the Higher Education Institutions of KwaZulu-Natal have decided to join forces. One of the identified solutions is that of developing the youth of our country, who are able to think innovatively to create entrepreneurial sustainable ventures,’ she said.

To ensure that the programme showed a true reflection of student entrepreneurship, the College of Law and Management Studies’ Public Relations Office, which co-ordinated the Westville programme, partnered with Denim Friday. This (Denim Friday) is a socio-economic initiative driven by UKZN students who create a platform for students who are entrepreneurs to either sell their products or advertise their skills to the University community. In collaboration, the teams used the element of edutainment to set up a market environment at the UKZN quad area where the student vendors sold everything from artwork, shoes and clothes, on the spot make up, barber services as well as baked goods.

This also included popular radio station Gagasi FM’s midday drive show, Midday Shandis, crossing live to the event throughout their three-hour segment to interview Kunene and the student entrepreneurs. The event was such a success that there have been several requests for the event to be a monthly feature on the University’s calendar and Kunene expressed her gratitude to the Technology Innovation Agency, Ithala and EDTEA for valuable their contributions.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo