4 Edu-preneurs on Teaching Entrepreneurship to Young Students

Updated on 20 July 2016

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4 edu-preneurs on teaching entrepreneurship to young students

Most entrepreneurship programmes target post-matric youth. What would happen if young learners were exposed to an education syllabus designed to inspire a culture of entrepreneurship and wealth creation early on in the career development process?

This is the focus of a growing number of edu-preneurs who are hoping to be part of the solution to South Africa’s well documented poor entrepreneurship showing, by exposing young children to entrepreneurship concepts, and providing them with the financial and business skills to run successful enterprises.

SA’s entrepreneurship story

The reasons for teaching entrepreneurship to young people are clear. Research shows that South Africa’s entrepreneurship levels are among the lowest in Africa.

According to the 2015 – 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report for South Africa, the number of entrepreneurs in the country have declined during 2015 to 2016, and entrepreneurial intention (which measures the intention to start a business) has almost halved when compared to 2010 and is lower than the African average.

And those who do start businesses, the majority don’t survive very long. In 2014 the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies said up to 70% of small businesses fail within the first year of establishment.

This is echoed by an SBP Business Environment Specialists’ 2015 SME Growth Index which reports that while small and medium enterprises are the largest job creators in developed and developing countries, “established small firms in South Africa are showing a decline in employment, turnover and a majority are struggling to survive,” says the report. Factors impeding their growth include burdensome regulations, inadequate financial skills, lack of information and fierce competition.

Examples of success

Countries like Israel and the Netherlands, which are well regarded for their robust entrepreneurship ecosystems, have been the leaders in making education for young learners widely accessible.

Israel which has a population of 8 522 000 has over 6 000 startups. Uriel Peled who is a co-founder of Israel-based startup Visualead, put Israel’s success down to the availability of government resources, mentors and education system, in particular universities which provide “a playground for entrepreneurs to meet others with similar interests who may later go into business together.”

This early exposure to entrepreneurship, training and resources is what South Africa is lacking, says Lydia Zingoni, founder of Teen Entrepreneurs, a programme dedicated to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship in young learners.

Lisa Illingworth of Wealth Creators agrees that there is a need for additional programmes to teach entrepreneurial skills. “When they [learners] are given the skills and knowledge of how to start and manage their own business, they have the characteristics of a high-functioning entrepreneur. And a solid base on which to build business foundations,” says Illingworth.

To find out how they are helping to develop the next generation of young entrepreneurs, SME South Africa speaks to four organisations offering youth entrepreneurship education.

“The promotion of entrepreneurship, most particularly amongst the youth, is a global trend which needs to be encouraged and cultivated in South Africa”


“We edu-tain – educate and engage through entertainment and play”

About: Young Entrepreneurs (YE) was launched in 2014 by Danie Jacobs.

Jacobs was motivated to launch YE by, what he says, is the lack of preparation that school and university provide for students in a country where “unemployed graduates are the norm and not the exception.”

The programme mixes creativity together with entrepreneurship concepts. They take on learners from the age of seven, right up to 15 years.

The learners participate in entrepreneurial ventures such as tin art, recycled jewellery, key rings, photo frames and button art.

What method does your programme use to teach entrepreneurship? 

Our age specific programmes allow kids to discover money and business through play and a collection of fun interactive, multi-media minds-on and hands-on activities, games, simulations, videos and online applications.

We edutain – educate and engage through entertainment and play. The content, format and activities have been developed by local and international professionals in order to accommodate multiple learning styles and ensure that while we make business fun for kids we deliver key learning objectives and teach real-life business and money lessons.

“Risk should be tackled at an early age when mistakes can be made without major repercussions”

Every child receives a “Business Backpack” with raw material and resources to make products and launch a fully-fledged micro-enterprise.

We take them through the whole entrepreneurial cycle – [from] deciding on a product; naming the business; branding the business; market research; prototyping and production; costing; creating marketing material, and selling at a Market Day.

What do you think is needed to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in SA? 

The problem originates in our homes and schools. We are wrong about failure. Every entrepreneur needs resilience and determination to get up when they suffer a blow. Business is fraught with ups and downs. The best entrepreneurs can attest to that.

We need to take the sting out of failure. In school we were all taught that failure is bad. In the entrepreneurial arena, failure can be a great thing if a positive lesson is learnt.


Entrepreneurship thrives in a conducive macro environment with a stable environment in which to grow opportunity entrepreneurs”

About: The Wealth Creators programme was launched this year by co-founders, Lisa Illingworth and Michael Griffin.

The idea behind the initiative is to change “a generation of the unemployed into a generation of entrepreneurs,” says Illingworth.

The programme’s learners’ ages range from nine to 17 years. Learners are encouraged to pursue various entrepreneurial ventures from chocolate making, walking dogs and selling banting products to washing cars.

What method does your programme use to teach entrepreneurship? 

Our learners are introduced, not just to business skills, but the course is underpinned with significant research that shows that it is the mind-set of high impact entrepreneurs that results in the successes.

The character traits of entrepreneurship are introduced to the learners to reframe the way they think first before trying to teach them to start and manage a business.

The program teaches entrepreneurial thinking, starting a business using the lean canvas method and understanding basic cash flow or matchbox accounting.

“Every entrepreneur needs resilience and determination to get up when they suffer a blow”

What do you think is needed to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in SA? 

Entrepreneurship thrives in a conducive macro environment with a stable environment in which to grow opportunity entrepreneurs. At the moment, starting and owning your own business is borne out of necessity.

Wealth Creators exists to teach children that it does not have to be the last resort when you can’t get a job. Being an entrepreneur is a career choice, not a default position if you can’t find a job.

What message do you teach regarding failure and risk? 

Risk taking is an entrepreneurial mind-set. Risk should be tackled at an early age when mistakes can be made without major repercussions. Learners can make small calculated risks while they are still at home and all their overheads are covered.


“Entrepreneurship needs to be embraced as an alternative to solving a host of economic and social challenges”

About: Lydia Zingoni launched the Teen Entrepreneur foundation in 2007 after spotting a need for young people to gain access to information about entrepreneurship.

Zingoni says the programme “seeks to instill a culture of entrepreneurship in young people.”

The programme works specifically with teenagers with an interest in starting businesses in the tourism, fashion, tech and manufacturing sectors.

What method does your programme use to teach entrepreneurship? 

Our 15 module course material teaches learners and their teachers (called ‘Teacher Champions’ and who teach various components of entrepreneurship) how to develop business ideas into tangible products and services.

The programme kicks off with a workshop to brainstorm and develop business ideas based on challenges or opportunities which are identified; this phase is called ‘Business Idea Generation’.

They then have to turn these challenges into business opportunities, which should uplift their socio-economic surroundings. In order to propagate leadership behaviour, we encourage learners to work in teams of five.

At the conclusion of the programme, learners will have a viable business model which they can take to market. Our course materials have also been digitalised, enabling us to reach schools across all four corners of the country. 

What do you think is needed to build a culture of entrepreneurship in SA? 

The promotion of entrepreneurship, particularly amongst the youth, is a global trend which needs to be encouraged and cultivated in South Africa.

In a country where youth unemployment sits at 38%, entrepreneurship needs to be embraced as an alternative to solving a host of economic and social challenges in our communities. As an entrepreneur, the impact of what you do has the potential to positively influence a number of households, not just your own. 


“Our programmes teaches learners to not seek funding first but start with the resources available to them

About: Step Up to Start Up forms part of Primestar Marketing. The initiative was launched over 12 years ago “to educate and empower as many learners as our resources allow,” says Nkosinathi Moshoana of Primestar Marketing.

The learners targeted range from the age of 14 to 19.

They share business ideas through a competition and the best and most viable ideas are developed through Primestar’s incubation programme.

What method does your programme use to teach entrepreneurship? 

Step Up to Start Up equips over 15 000 Secondary School learners (mostly from previously disadvantaged backgrounds) with realisable steps to becoming job creators as opposed to job seekers.

Our exclusive partnership with Ster Kinekor cinemas nationwide creates the platform for brands to utilise them as “Educational Theatres of Learning”. Further to that, our content perpetuates the teachings of The Lean Start-up methodology through the Business Model Canvass as opposed to the traditional business plan route.

Our learners focus on starting businesses that are direct solutions to the problems in their communities and beyond.

Our programmes teaches learners to not seek funding first, but start with the resources available to them in their immediate environment in order to drive innovative thinking.

What is needed to make South Africa a hospitable environment for entrepreneurship to thrive?

What we have observed is that small businesses fail because the entrepreneur has the skill (solution) to offer to customers but does not have the skills to sustain and grow the business such as administration, finances, marketing, human resources and the likes. This is one of the most important elements of our teaching in our programmes.

What do you think is needed to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in SA? 

The key to successfully igniting the passion for entrepreneurship in our society is to start teaching entrepreneurship from early stage development.

Entrepreneurship has to be introduced and nurtured from school. We focus on empowering high school learners across the country in order for them to see entrepreneurship as a viable avenue of success by the time they matriculate.

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