The Graduate School of Business and Leadership’s Regional Local Economic Development Initiativecelebrated the success of its Champions Programme as 12 social entrepreneurs recently showcased how their entrepreneurial ventures are benefiting their communities.

The Champions Programme is a community development initiative that is part of a partnership between the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department (EDTEA) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The year-long programme saw selected social entrepreneurs spend two days per month at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) being exposed to a range of topics custom designed to nurture the development and scale the impact of their enterprises.

The 12 participants presenting at the Demo Day were: Ms Cebisile Buthelezi (in fashion and design); Mr Lindani Mkhanyawo (a youth development initiative), Mr Gordon Ngcoya (an innovative chicken rearing model for food security), Mr Pelican Ntombela (bridging finance for micro entrepreneurs); Ms Zinhle Vezi (rabbit farming for food security); Ms Molebogeng Miyene (recycled leather craft); Ms Mildred Dlamini (informal and micro entrepreneur development programme); Ms Nokulunga Mhlongo (a bakery within an OVC Centre), Mr Siboniso Mazibuko (a fashion cluster); Mr Zwakele Khumalo (development communication), Mr Bright Hlongwane (an entrepreneurship development programme);  Ms Yabo Makhanya (artist development programme) and Ms Nosipho Phiri (organic farming).

GSB&L academic and facilitator of the Champions programme, Professor Shahida Cassim said the initiative has achieved its aim as the entrepreneurs are stimulating local economic development in the Province through their projects.

‘We have taken a group of changemakers who are already running social projects in their communities and helped them scale their initiatives so that they have more impact.  Through this programme these changemakers have learnt from each other and from experts helping facilitate the development of their enterprises. The model has evolved over the four years of offering it and we think that the model is ready to scale.  We can scale this impact only through partnerships.’ She issued a call for partnerships with private and public sector partners.

EDTEA representative Mr Patrick Mbokazi said that the skills the social entrepreneurs have gained from this programme are crucial for the transformation of South Africa’s economy.

‘This is one of our strategic projects to ensure that the country has leaders who are abreast with LED and the needs of the people in their communities that is what sparked this partnership with UKZN. The programme has evolved over the years and we have seen a lot of positive results since its conception in 2010. We are proud of all of the LED practitioners that have graduated and have gone back to plough back in their communities,’ said Mbokazi.

The social entrepreneurs also heard from former champions Ms Zama Kunene, the founder of askZama.com, an online platform that helps small businesses market themselves online and Mr Lindo Duma, the co-founder of Iziko Stoves which employs rehabilitated substance abusers to create stoves out of recycled gas cylinders, geysers and oil drums about how the programme contributed to their success.

After a day of presenting their business plans to a panel of expert judges, the top three business cases were identified. Claiming the third spot was Ngcoya’s poultry model for household food security. Second place went to Mhlongo who has created a bakery within the Ubumbano Drop In Centre, which services the community of Melmoth. The first prize was awarded to Miyene’s Bikoland Creations based in Dannhauser which manufactures handbags and other leather products out of waste and recycled leather. The prizes were awarded through the kind and generous sponsorship from Al Baraka Bank (1st prize); Awqaf South Africa (2nd prize) and the Iqra Trust (3rd prize).

For more information on the Champions Programme visit: http://rledi.ukzn.ac.za/projects/champions-2017

Words: Thandiwe Jumo