This article forms part of SME South Africa’s Youth Month 2018 series ‘A Seat at the Table’ – an exploration of SA Youth’s efforts to step up and effect positive change. Follow all our #YouthMonth2018 coverage here.
Entrepreneurship has often been presented as the answer to the country’s massive youth unemployment problem, but what do young entrepreneurs want South African youth to know about the reality of entrepreneurship? To find out we presented this question to four successful business founders from varying backgrounds.
Does entrepreneurship live up to its rumoured promise of wealth and fame, or is the reality much harsher?
Meet the panelists:
Luyanda Jafta is the co-founder of the first black-owned crowdfunding platform in South Africa, The People’s Fund which allows individuals, stokvels and corporates to invest in black-owned businesses. Jafta is also the founder of Paybook, a digital marketing company.
Emma Dicks is the founder of the tech initiative Code for Cape Town (Code4CT) which she launched in 2014 and introduces high school girls to coding and creative problem-solving.
Trevor Gosling is behind the online fintech platform, Lulalend, which provides entrepreneurs with short-term funding.
Allegro Dinkwanyane is the founder of 100% black-owned public relations company, Orgella Media, which specialises in brand management, they produce social media marketing and public relations (PR) campaigns.
On the youth’s outlook on entrepreneurship
‘Wealth and stardom’ – “There seems to be a culture gripping South Africa at the moment that looks at entrepreneurship as stardom or a means to get very rich very quickly. I think generally speaking it is the incorrect approach and view to entrepreneurship. This is a fantasy. Entrepreneurship is about solving societal problems that have economic value.” – Luyanda Jafta
‘Unrealistic expectations’ – “From what I’ve seen in my years of being in business as a young person, a lot of young entrepreneurs are impatient, they set unrealistic goals and they move with no sense of direction. You can’t start a business today and expect to be a millionaire tomorrow, it takes time, hard work, dedication and a good team.” – Allegro Dinkwanyane
The trick is to develop an obsession with learning, not winning – Luyanda Jafta
‘Opportunities over challenges’ – “What I have noticed about most of us is that we’re optimistic-realists. We aren’t delusional, but we do view the world and our business ventures through positively-tinted lenses as we seek out opportunities rather than over analyse the challenges to achieving them. There are times when entrepreneurs need to be more optimistic – perhaps even unrealistically so in order to succeed.” – Trevor Gosling
‘Overly glorified’ – “I do think that entrepreneurship is overly glorified. What people put out there is not the full picture. Like babies: you only ever see them smiling and cute on social media but never hear about the sleepless nights, endless crying and all the expenses.” – Emma Dicks
You’ll occasionally make the wrong decisions, you’ll choose the wrong direction, you’ll accept the wrong advice – Trevor Gosling
On the reality that we should be sharing with the youth
‘A long-term journey’ – “It takes about 10 years to be a seasoned entrepreneur or before you see any of the benefits of entrepreneurship in any sustainable way. The reality is that your first two ventures are likely to fail because in that time you are learning all of the soft skills that come with entrepreneurship. The trick is to develop an obsession with learning, not winning.” – Luyanda Jafta
‘Not everyone is entrepreneurship material’ – “Entrepreneurship is not for everybody and that it’s okay to pursue a 9-5 job and excel at that and maybe on the side have a business. Not everybody is skilled to be an entrepreneur. Not everybody has the kind of patience and drive that is needed to survive and later flourish in business.” – Allegro Dinkwanyane
‘Failure is part of the process’ – “The reality is that failure is inevitable. I don’t mean this in the sense that every new business venture will fail, but rather that failure is part of the process. You’ll occasionally make the wrong decisions, you’ll choose the wrong direction, you’ll accept the wrong advice. Accept the failures when they happen, learn from them and keep moving forward.” – Trevor Gosling
‘Not only about the win’ – “Being an entrepreneur is not about not having a boss. Entrepreneurs are those dedicated enough to creating something new to endure the heartbreak, risks and stress of doing so.” – Emma Dicks
I think the classic narrative of “one person has a great idea, overcomes a challenge, now is a superstar” is almost always incredibly inaccurate – Emma Dicks
On the consequences of selling a “fantasy”
‘Fake entrepreneurs and buzz word problems’ – “The consequences are that we have social media famous celebrities who do not have viable businesses, or attract get-rich-quick schemes into the system. People are hungry to make quick money. We also have a buzz word problem: “Innovation”. Most African problems are actually in poor distribution of resources; they do not need an app to solve. They need smarter distribution mechanisms. We need to focus on that first and then do the Silicon style of innovation.” – Luyanda Jafta
‘Missing out on great opportunities’ – “As much as entrepreneurship is seen as a way out of poverty and unemployment, we also need to encourage young people to aspire to be successful professionals in various industries. If we don’t, we’ll end up with an unemployed generation, living in poverty with unrealistic dreams of one day making it big in business. Young people will miss out on great opportunities purely because their only focus is just entrepreneurship when there are other ways to be financially stable and live out your dreams.” – Allegro Dinkwanyane
‘Unrealistic expectations’ – “Entrepreneurs, particularly young entrepreneurs sabotage themselves by expecting a profitable business to happen overnight. It takes years, long hours and hard work before you’ll see any substantial profit – and even then it’s not a guarantee. This underlines the need for new business owners to have a solid business and financial plan before starting their business.” – Trevor Gosling
‘Not a simple journey’ – “I think the classic narrative of “one person has a great idea, overcomes a challenge, now is a superstar” is almost always incredibly inaccurate. There are many bad ideas that one has to work through to find a good idea, many challenges along the path, and almost always, a group not an individual, behind a successful business.” – Emma Dicks
Once you invest in yourself, others will invest in you too, but it all begins with you – Allegro Dinkwanyane
On what young entrepreneurs need to succeed
‘Education on problem-solving and scaling’ – “I think the number one thing we should be [teaching] is how to identify problems, how to build quick solutions to those problems and then how to scale that [solution] into other markets. In a nutshell it is education on market finding, pricing and scaling.” – Luyanda Jafta
‘Fund and support yourself’ – “Use what you have, save up if you have to, work extra hours at your job while you save for your business, do something! Just don’t sit around waiting for someone to join your pity party. Once you invest in yourself, others will invest in you too, but it all begins with you.” – Allegro Dinkwanyane
‘Mentorship and skills training’ – “Mentors and entrepreneurial development programmes definitely go a long way in helping to equip young people. Finding mentors who have experience in running their own business can be an invaluable asset and provide helpful insight and first-hand knowledge.” – Trevor Gosling
‘Access to Capital’ – “Access to capital is an important factor. There has to be opportunity for young people to have small amounts of capital to experiment and learn through mechanisms such as competitions.” – Emma Dicks