Story: Natalie Kammies
Photo: Fuad Abrahams
University of Cape Town (UCT) students keen to know more about being successful entrepreneurs were in for a learning experience at this year’s virtual national Student Entrepreneurship Week (#SEW2020), which took place from 2 – 4 November.
The event was hosted by the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), which develops entrepreneurship among students, academics and leaders and encourages entrepreneurship as a viable career choice.
This year, UCT was one of a range of higher education institutions that presented their work in the entrepreneurship space. UCT Vice- Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng addressed young entrepreneurs as part of the #SEW2020 line-up.
During her address, Professor Phakeng said that various departments within UCT support entrepreneurship such as UCT Careers Service, Graduate School of Business Solutions Space and d-school. She said the fact that #SEW2020 was being celebrated online this year was a sign of how Covid-19 had placed people in a period of disruption.
“I commend your resilience and I would like to challenge you to go further than resilience. To not just be resilient but to also use disruption as a way to create new business ideas that will help make lives better,” she said.
Professor Phakeng identified three core values that drive successful entrepreneurship: excellence through great customer experience; developing adaptability by planning for different scenarios and not being afraid to be different.
“Of course, it’s much safer to toe the line because you look or sound like everyone else; but that’s when you miss an opportunity. When you are not afraid to be different you become memorable,” she said.
She also spoke to some of the skills identified by the World Economic Forum that workers would need in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. She said creativity, complex problem-solving, critical thinking and people management were the top four.
Entrepreneurship Support at UCT
UCT Careers Service has been supporting students on their entrepreneurship journey since 2017 through programmes such as the local UCT SEW as well as the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Challenge, a national competition that identifies talented student entrepreneurs at South African public universities.
UCT SEW, which ran in September, was no different. The programme consisted of a panel of successful entrepreneurs providing frank advice on their journeys; a webinar on the basics of intellectual property for start-ups; a workshop introducing entrepreneurs to Design Thinking and a discussion on how to develop scalable businesses.
The panel discussion was only one part of an exciting line-up that showed how current and former UCT students navigated entrepreneurship. Thought-provoking discussion points included how entrepreneurship allowed them to show purpose-driven leadership, juggling various priorities to make their dreams happen and how they pivoted to preserve during lockdown.
Nadia Waggie, UCT Careers Service Head of Operations and national convenor for EDHE SEW, said: “Four years ago we saw the birth Student Entrepreneurship Week at UCT, and we have not looked back ever since.”
“In 2019, qualitative research was undertaken to map UCT’s entrepreneurship ecosystem to have a good understanding of this ecosystem and to allow the institution to better support its diverse entrepreneurship offerings to both students and staff.”
“The study found pockets of excellence exist across the university’s entrepreneurship community,” she said.
Where to from here?
“As we continue to engage with the study, UCT continues to strive to create an environment that is beneficial to its students in creating an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Waggie said the Careers Service can connect UCT student entrepreneurs with various initiatives or support structures at the university. Interested students can email email@example.com
The EDHE national SEW can be viewed here:
National Student Entrepreneurship Week 2020 - Day 1
National Student Entrepreneurship Week 2020 - Day 2
National Student Entrepreneurship Week 2020 - Day 3