Business-savvy student wins global award

Palesa Motaung (left) holding the certificate she received for winning the SA leg of a global competition for students who run their own business while studying at the same time. Next from left are judges Ross Drakes, last year’s winner Amanda Jojo, Daniel Nel, David Alexander and past winner Sibusiso Buna.

The annual awards, which recognise students who successfully run a business while studying full-time, took place in Johannesburg on January 24.

Motaung’s winning business, Desert Green, is “a company of ‘Rural Agricultural Accelerators’ aiming to create new young farmers and develop existing small-scale farmers, while re-purposing under-utilised land in rural Africa for food production”.

Started in 2016, the company has recruited five farmers in total, whose farms have an aggregated production capacity of approximately 45 hectares.

As the winner of the South African leg of the global competition, Motaung will fly to Toronto, Canada, in April to represent the country along with winners from other countries. As part of the package, she will also receive a cash prize as well as business mentorship from some of South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs who are members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO).

“I am absolutely delighted at winning the competition,” said the 28-year-old, who hails from Spruitview, Johannesburg. “It was a nerve-racking process; I was competing with some strong candidates. Winning this has added validation to my business and myself as an entrepreneur. The GSEA is a great platform because they focus on the entrepreneur and how we effect change in the country. I am looking forward to learning from the established entrepreneurs at EO.”

Motaung was up against two other finalists in the competition:

• Peter Magomarela of Our Happy Shoes, a demand-based shoe care and maintenance business that uses technology to offer students services for the repair and renewal of dirty, broken or torn shoes.

• Nompumelelo Simelane of The Marketing Emporium, which provides services in the areas of promotions, activations, research, analysis, reporting, marketing and distribution.

Previous GSEA winner Amanda Jojo, who was part of the judging panel in this year’s competition, said winning the competition in 2017 opened new opportunities for her events business. “Having gone through the same process as these brave students last year, it was interesting to sit on the other side and have to make the tough decisions,” Jojo said.

“My business has benefited tremendously since I won the competition last year,” she added. “Having a team of business coaches available through EO has helped me take my business further than I imagined and opened more opportunities to expand – I launched my coffee shop brand The Trea Garden at the end of last year.”

Sbusiso Buna, another of this year’s judges, who runs the University of Pretoria Business Incubator, said that SA needs to lift the quality of its entrepreneurship ideas beyond the tuck shop level. “We have seen some good ideas come through this year’s competition. We need to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship among more young people, by building entrepreneurship into the basic education system that gives them the tools to make entrepreneurship a choice once they complete their schooling,” Buna said.

Daniel Nel, chair of GSEA South Africa, said the GSEA is an important vehicle for growing the country’s next generation of entrepreneurs. “It is a well-known fact that entrepreneurship is at the heart of South Africa’s economic progress. We are pleased to be playing a role in enabling a fresh pipeline of entrepreneurs,” said Nel.

He went on to explain that these students work hard to build their businesses while studying. “And that is the type of tenacity required to succeed in business. We always look to identify businesses that have vision and demonstrate long-term sustainability, among other judging criteria. We are satisfied that Desert Green has a future and will do great things in South Africa.”

Zaid Khumalo

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