Job Creation & Entrepreneurship

USB Small Business Academy

"…USB is a place of both cutting-edge, high-end management knowledge and a source of social development and hope" - Prof Piet Naudé, Director: USB

"At the end of the course, the students submit a business plan, have to present to a panel and then answer questions from the members, who are from the USB academic team as well as business and government representatives."

The Small Business Academy (SBA), established in 2012 focuses primarily on providing business education and business development support to township entrepreneurs. Conceived and run by Stellenbosch University Business School (USB), it provides practical Africa-based solutions, backed by the rigour of theory.

The Distell Foundation is a principal funder of the SBA, that targets the owners of small and micro businesses in operation for at least two years, who employ 15 people or less, have at least a Grade 12 certification and are 25 years or older.

The premise is that successful small businesses can stimulate broader job creation and economic growth. Given South Africa's low level of entrepreneurship compared with other developing countries, small businesses are generally not achieving the growth required for increased job creation. The SBA hopes to transform the viability of such businesses by building business skills, in the process promoting a stronger culture of entrepreneurship or business ownership.
The SBA's Development Programme is a nine-month course, currently available to eligible business owners, in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, Strandfontein, Langa, Phillipi, Gugulethu and Du Noon. It is underpinned by one-on-one mentorship provided by USB alumni, specifically trained for the purpose. "The programme is built on very direct, personal engagement. It provides context to the theory and allows candidates to evolve at their own pace," says Edith Kennedy, SABA's operations manager.

The programme covers training in business essentials from computer literacy to administration and financial management, marketing and networking. It runs regular workshops for participants, gives them access to resources and facilities. What makes it unique is that it provides 12 face-to-face mentorship sessions of at least an hour at a time, volunteered by MBA and other graduates from the USB.

The mentoring process is very structured and disciplined and both mentor and mentee receive training in their roles, responsibilities and commitments, and in setting parameters as far as dependency is concerned. Each party is required to sign a contract that they will fulfil their obligations within the prescribed time.

In addition to the work assignments and workshops, candidates have to attend what amounts to 28 days of classes at USB in Bellville, set in week-long modules during the nine-month training period.

At the end of the course, the students submit a business plan, have to present to a panel and then answer questions from the members, who are from the USB academic team as well as business and government representatives.

At every stage up to submission, they have recourse to their individual mentors to make sure the standard of their work meets the pass requirement of 50%. Graduates are awarded a National Quality Framework (NQF) Level 5 certificate from the SBA.

Even after they graduate, SBA maintains contact with the small business owners, sharing with them news of work, funding and further learning opportunities. To date 51 participants have completed the programme.  There are  22 candidates enrolled in 2015.

Although it has begun modestly, the plan is to replicate the model for the Development Programme elsewhere in South Africa and ultimately across Africa. In that way foreign USB alumni can continue to propel entrepreneurship when they return to their native countries.

In 2011, with five years of experience as a swimming teacher, Rushana Charles (30) knew that she wanted to do something about the fact that her community in Mitchell’s Plain did not have a swimming school. This led her to build Little Mermaid Swimming School in Strandfontein, a facility for teaching swimming and basic water safety skills to babies, toddlers, older kids and adults.

Rushana started with her mother’s investment of R120 000 and sold a bakkie that she’d won for R80 000 as capital towards building the pool.  She also re-mortgaged her house to raise R80 000 for the solar panels and the expensive materials to build the structure surrounding the pool. 

After seeing an advertisement of the SBA, she decided to apply in a bid to grow her business skills and hence her business. Today she has 480 swimmers on her books, employs five staff members with another swimming instructor-in-training.  She has bought a seven-seater vehicle to transport more kids and her turnover has doubled since she started the school.

USB Small Business Academy

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