The Ilembe Chamber of Commerce ‘The Entrepreneur’ competition is capturing the attention of global learning institutions - from Durban and America - placing the programme at the cutting edge of finding solutions to the unemployment crisis in South Africa.
“Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States spent a week with us understanding our programme and giving input. These students are studying global trends and best practice in local economic development,” said Ilembe Chamber Chief Executive Officer Trenley Tilbrook.
“At a local level, a Masters student from the University of KwaZulu-Natal is currently using our programme as a case study in writing her thesis on local economic development and the implications of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are people that find resourceful and innovative ways to aid social development. In effect then our programme is seen as leading the space in this sector.”
This week 30 semi-finalists enter their third week of training aimed at assisting them think through each element of their business, from their target market to the delivery of the product or service. The eight week training programme, valued at a total cost of R300 000 helps each individual write a business plan based on a thought process called business modelling.
“It is important to note that these people already have businesses and are operating. We help them think through their current model and make adjustments. This is then articulated into an implementation plan. Business modelling is a whole lot more than a generic business plan that is commonly used for sourcing funding,” he said.
The statistics of success for last year’s participants speak volumes. Of the 30 that participated in the programme the Chamber is still in contact with 26. Of the 26 – 22 are operating on a full-time basis, three on a part-time basis and one is no longer in business. Before the competition these people employed a total of 66 people. Since completing the programme they have collectively created an additional 58 jobs. That is an average of almost three extra people per business.
“What is important to realise here is that not only are these people able to sustain themselves and the two others they were employing but they have created an additional average of three jobs per person. Who knows, one of the candidates coming through our programme could be the next Richard Branson?” said Tilbrook.
At a deeper level ‘The Entrepreneur’ programme is also forging relationships between entrepreneurs from all different walks of life and cutting down racial divides between black, white and Indian. It is building social cohesion.
“Our participants all have different levels of understanding, products, services, markets and mechanisms but one thing in common – business. At the workshops we encourage them to network and build relationships. What is emerging is phenomenal. They are starting to do business with one another, sharing experiences and giving advice,” he said.
The Entrepreneur competition is funded by sponsors Airports Company South Africa, Royal Haskoning DHV, Enterprise Ilembe, African Bank and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It is in its third year and things have never looked better