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Entrepreneurial innovation takes centre stage at Inkunzi awards

Following a rigorous adjudication process which saw the top eight finalists presenting their business concepts to a panel of judges, Trever Colvelle from Bulwer in KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands region took first position in this year’s Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Business Competition.

Ithala Development Finance Corporation which spearheads the programme said the decision was largely influenced by the social impact of the innovation.

Inkunz’isematholeni attracts youth with innovative and sustainable business concepts and provides incubation and start-up in their journey to becoming seasoned entrepreneurs.

Out of a total of 198 entries, Colvelle was selected for his invention of the Solar Nexus, a foldable solar charging device that can power a heater, radio, TV and lights in your home, thereby eliminating the need for batteries, paraffin stoves and open fire cooking which can be hazardous.

The waterproof device opens up into the shape and size of a golf umbrella which can be used for protection from adverse weather conditions and simultaneously to charge your power bank as a ready-to-use power supply by the time you arrive home.

Colvelle walked away with R250 000 worth of business support, which includes amongst others:

  • Intellectual property protection
  • Working capital
  • Product development
  • Mentorship
  • Marketing expenses

According to the Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey 2017, some of the reasons cited for business failure by entrepreneurs themselves are lack of business support including financial (36%); poor planning (24%); lack of access to markets (17%); lack of operations experience (15%) and poor financial management (8%).

A combination of support 

Hence, Inkunz’isematholeni is a flagship programme of Ithala to assist aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their creative concepts into fully operational businesses by providing start-up capital and the necessary business support to help them launch, manage and run their businesses successfully.

“We understand the plight of SMMEs and, therefore, provide a combination of financial and non-financial support to ensure the sustainability of businesses,” said Themba Mathe, Acting Group Chief Executive at Ithala.

“Our strategic partner Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), provides aftercare support and much-needed business mentorship to capacitate entrepreneurs.”

He said the calibre of entries this year and the level of innovation applied was most impressive and reflective of a talented and diverse pool of entrepreneurs.

Two special awards were presented to finalists to further assist them in their entrepreneurial journey.

Lloyd Gordon from Pietermaritzburg, the creator and owner of Vula Maths, received a R50 000 marketing voucher to help him market his existing innovation – an application that allows students to learn mathematics freely without incurring any costs.

The service uses an Android app and a website as platforms to allow learning. A student simply types in a mathematical problem and the service returns a step-by-step solution to the problem. This ensures that students learn how to get to the answer. High-quality maths education is available for free to all students from various socio-economic backgrounds, thereby promoting inclusivity in line with government’s radical economic transformation agenda.

Simangaliso Zungu from KwaMbonambi in northern KZN is the recipient of the second special award. He is currently in the process of developing a breakthrough technology in the mobile device industry.

The Power Extending (PoEX) Module is designed with integrated mobile power harvesting technology to assist with extending the battery life of cell phones and tablets. No cable chargers or plug-in charging is required. The technology simply provides highly efficient power-on-the-go for cell phones and tablets to self-charge. Due to the delicate nature of the project, TIA will assist Zungu with developing his prototype and IP protection through their seed fund.

Flagship programmes 

Driving SMME and cooperative development over the next five years in line with its mandate to promote development is one of the key strategic goals of Ithala. The “Imbokodo Iyazenzela” Women in SMMEs Awards and Siyasebenza are two additional flagship programmes of Ithala which accelerate SMME development and empower women and youth in historically marginalised communities.

“Imbokodo Iyazenzela” or “Women doing it for themselves” was piloted in 2015 and has since reached over 3000 women in 16 towns. The programme provides an enabling environment for female entrepreneurs in KZN who require access to finance and the resources to grow and seeks to improve the long-term sustainability of women-owned SMME’s in the province.

“Siyasebenza” which means “We are working” is a business development programme aimed at educating existing and emerging entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas on ways to build and grow sustainable businesses. Over 2 000 SMMEs in all 11 districts of KZN have been reached to date.

Over the past three years, Ithala has disbursed R878 600 000 to nearly 700 businesses, resulting in over 8 000 jobs being created. Of these, 28% are women-owned businesses and young people comprise nearly 40% of those on Ithala’s loan book.

Ithala’s Business Finance portfolio caters for small and medium industrial and commercial businesses as well as agricultural enterprises, tourism ventures, co-operatives and building contractors.

For more information on Ithala visit www.myithalastory.com or www.ithala.co.za or call 031 907 8911.

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