UKZN Chemistry graduate and former technician, Ms Bathabile Mpofu, teamed with her husband Roderick Mpofu two years ago to found Nkazimulo Applied Sciences (NAS), a business that performs science experiments at schools and provides them with ChemStart kits. Their aim is introduce learners to the wonders of science and dispel any fears about the subject. The company was based at UKZN’s Westville campus until July 2017, and is now headquartered at the Power Centre in New Germany.
They present their experiments in an interesting, humorous and professional manner to engage learners. Mpofu was inspired to pursue this initiative as she found that, while working as a technician in UKZN’s Chemistry laboratories, many new students struggled with science, an experience she related to personally as she had battled with science herself when entering university.
‘The foundation laid for us in high school science education is often not enough to prepare learners for tertiary education,’ said Mpofu. ‘It makes it even more difficult to fall in love with science.’
Mpofu’s response to this was to develop the ChemStart kit as a contribution to needs in high school science education, and to bring science concepts to life for learners and help improve their performance.
NAS has been involved in taking science to areas where it is not common including areas outside of main centres during National Science Week, in partnership with the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA). They supplied their ChemStart kits to some schools in Vuwani after protests led to the schools being burned.
Starting their own business was challenging; a lack of start-up capital meant that they could not initially pay a team to assist them, and time management and the meeting of deadlines became important skills to master. The Mpofu team also had to work hard to find mentors to advise them in their endeavours and find their own way, only securing mentorship recently. The company also receives some assistance from Red Bull Amaphiko.
Having studied her BSc and her BSc Honours in Chemistry at UKZN, Mpofu found guidance from Professor Andrew Kindness, who encouraged her to examine how knowledge is received and applied innovatively, and helped her identify gaps in foundational knowledge.
Mpofu advised prospective entrepreneurs to investigate how innovation takes place, and learn how to apply knowledge innovatively to give them an edge. For scientific graduates, she encouraged them to identify their passion and then use their knowledge to design solutions aligned with these passions.
‘If you discover your passion by taking notice of what bothers you regularly in your daily life, you may just come up with the next big thing that changes lives of many people,’ said Mpofu.