A University of Venda (UNIVEN) Honours student in International Relations made history last Friday, when he won Studentpreneurship of the Year.
At the prestigious EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity national finals in Gauteng, Mr Promise Nyalungu (left) also scooped the Studentpreneur of the Year 2020 Award. As he reached for the Studentpreneurship of the Year trophy, Nyalungu said: “This one is for the village.” He would explain later, that he was dedicating this victory to Ga Mokgokong, his home village, about 11 kilometers outside of Seshego, Polokwane, in the Limpopo province. That is where he started organising youngsters into performing arts groups as far back as 2015; a passion out of which the business that won him this award (Struu Artzz Entertainment) would be born, two years ago. Nyalungu was one of four students on whom the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity spotlight shone as they claimed their top positions in the competition finals last Friday.
From Category I: Innovative Business Ideas, the winner was Mr Marco Booyse (left in the photo below), University of Pretoria’s Bachelor of Commerce: General final-year student.
He walked away with a R20,000 prize for Stu-D-sure (pronounced “Study-sure”), a company that Booyse co-founded with his peer, Jacques Fourie, also a final year Bachelor of Commerce: General student at the University of Pretoria.
Stu-D-sure enables university students to insure their study modules. This way, if a student fails a module, the insurance covers the cost of the repeated module, while rewarding good academic performance to incentivize good results. This business aims to uplift the youth and support continuous injection of a schooled workforce into the economy. Stu-D-sure recognizes the financial burden and stress experienced by students from disadvantaged communities and the impact this has on perpetuating inequality in South Africa. This insurance product seeks to ensure that these students complete their studies and continue their journey to a prosperous future. Stu-D-sure envisions a brighter future for all students across South Africa. While recognising that life throws its curveballs at some point or other –that should not lead to a student dropping out of varsity. Booyse and his business partner strongly feel that life challenges should never deprive a student of a prosperous future.
Stellenbosch University was also elevated when its Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in Medicine student, Mr Keaton Harris (left in the right photo), triumphed among six contenders for the number one position in Category 2: Existing Business – Tech.
The winning ticket was InforMED Global, an offline healthcare translation tool that is breaking the language barriers between healthcare professionals and patients. The tool translates patient symptoms narrated in the vernacular, into the medical terminology equivalent in English, easing communication between the patient and a healthcare practitioner. The app uses an adaptive approach whereby translations are only obtained by healthcare professionals that show proficiency in English and another language featured on the tool – thus establishing trust in the translations. The reason for this is to streamline patient symptoms to establish a holistic and patient-centred clinical plan, whilst ensuring resources and money are not unnecessarily wasted.”
From Category 4: Existing Business – General, Ms Kgodiso Lebea (left in the left photo) , a final-year Development Planning and Management student at the University of Limpopo, was crowned winner, on account of her notable success with JK Foods. Lebea is CEO in this agro-food processing venture that manufactures six types of spices incorporating moringa, the plant reputed to have health properties but that tastes bitter when eaten unprocessed. JK Foods’ spices are considered healthy because they do not contain artificial colourants, preservatives or monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Lebea co-founded this company with a Mr Jimmy Mohale, a former University of Limpopo student in BCom Accounting who now works for the university as the Entrepreneurship Administrator. Because of the conflict of interest that his latter position presented, Mohale stepped down as co-owner and has taken an advisory role in JK Foods.
The only female emerging in the top four of the EDHE Enterpreneurship Intervarsity finals, Lebea is on a winning streak. In 2019, she was co-runner-up in the Limpopo ENGEN Pitch & Polish competition. ENGEN Pitch & Polish is an annual enterpreneurship workshop and competition held in eight cities across South Africa. She also walked off with a 2nd place win in the Innovation Prize scholarship during the launch of the French South African Agriculture Institute (F’SAGRI) at her institution in 2019. At the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Finals Lebea was one of only seven female finalists among 21 males.
All winners in the four categories each walked away with a R20,000 prize.
Studentpreneur of the Year 2020 has prevailed over adversity
“A lot of people did not believe in performing arts, even in the face of widespread substance abuse, which I believe youth resort to — in the absence of a meaningful pastime. Receiving this trophy reminded me of how people used to look down upon this idea, and my efforts.” Nyalungu, who was entering the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition for the second time, says when he returned empty-handed from the finals of September 2019, the naysayers in his community could not wait to tell him: “we told you this was a waste of time.”
However, knowing what it is that he and his associates were looking to achieve, and the impact it was going to have on young people, Nyalungu and company soldiered on.
Fast-track to the night of 27 November, 2020. As he stood on stage, clutching the dark-wood trophy in his hands, he burst into a Zulu song: “woe unto those who used to belittle me, who looked down upon me…” he paused; took a sip of bottled water, cast his eyes to the roof above, as he clearly fought back tears before picking himself up again. He says at that moment he thought back at the naysayers, wishing they could witness him getting this recognition today.
“I was here when Mvelo Hlophe won last year,” he said from the stage, pointing at the 2019 Studentpreneurship of the Year Winner and Winner in Category 3, of Existing Business: Social Impact, in the audience. “I was happy for him because he had presented the best business…It was his time. I knew I had a good thing going, but Mvelo’s was an even better venture. I made a decision at that time that I would be back to pitch again, and here I am, tonight.
“To my fellow contestants I would like to say, even when we do not win awards, we are already winners for having made it to this platform,” he said to loud applause and consensus from the audience at the Premier Hotel – OR Tambo, in Kempton Park. The ceremony was attended by student entrepreneurs from various public universities including the 28 finalists; universities’ executive leadership up to Deputy Vice-Chancellor level and the Deputy Director-General: University Education from the Department of Higher Education and Training that houses the University Capacity Development Programme and main sponsor of Universities South Africa’s Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme. USAf’s CEO, Professor Ahmed Bawa, linked in digitally, while Director: Operations and Sector Support, Dr Linda Meyer and Director: EDHE, Dr Norah Clarke, attended in person. Entrepreneurship Co-ordinators and members of universities’ Communities of Practice on Studentpreneurship were also in attendance.
Where it all began
Nyalungu established Struu Artzz Entertainment in 2017, early during his undergraduate studies in International Relations at UNIVEN. This was in partnership with a fellow student who was pursuing Media Studies at the time. He credits their group’s success to the support they received, over the years, from their institution. “We both used to be part of the UNIVEN Arts and Culture Society and Culture Club, of which I was a director. I later handed over the responsibility to other students and started this private society.”
He says UNIVEN, under the leadership of one Dr Elelwani Ramaite – then Arts and Culture Co-ordinator, who has since retired, used to sponsor the University’s Arts and Culture Society to perform at corporate and other events. Through her Oral History and Indigenous Music Project, Struu Artzz Entertainment was able to perform at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and the Mapungubwe Arts Festival in Polokwane. “When Dr Robert Martins, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Operations brought the entrepreneurship spirit to UNIVEN from 2018, this support was cemented. Another major player has been the Acting Director: International Relations, Dr Segun Obadire, who, whenever he receives new international students at our institution, ropes us in to showcase the Venda culture through performance of various art forms. All of these individuals appreciate the cultural richness of Limpopo and believe it must be celebrated.”
At the peak of their business between 2017 and 2019, Struu Artzz Entertainment made R125,000 in annual turnover. “In 2018 and 2019 we were invited by many corporates to perform industrial theatre to specific groups and communities. When UNIVEN hosted the 64th South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) Conference, just after we returned from the National Arts Festival, in 2019, Dr Eric Maluta, who was the Chair of the Local Organising Committee of the SAIP Conference, invited us to perform to a large group of delegates representing universities from Tanzania, Botswana, United Kingdom, USA, various local research houses, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Limpopo Tourism Agency (LTA).”
Even though their income still does not match their previous turnover, things continue to look up.
Thank you, UNIVEN
This young creative says he has UNIVEN to thank for having come this far. He maintains that even though a university may sometimes have limiting policies in place that may restrict it from doing business with students, as long as it supports its students and holds their hands through their entrepreneurial journey, the students are bound to succeed.
It is all about honing young talent in the Limpopo province
Thinking back to his formative years in school, “when cultural groups came to perform at our schools,” Nyalungu says it pained him, nowadays, to see young talent wasting away, consumed by substance abuse – especially in the absence of recreational facilities of the type that one sees in big cities.
Starting the performing arts group was essentially about providing a platform for young people to sharpen their talent. Struu Artzz Entertainment is also determined to prevent young people from idling about in the streets and in their villages, and to attract them away from substance abuse. “The idea is to create role models for young people; to start a network of communities that will feed into each other in celebration of cultural festivals. By starting platforms that are non-existent in our rural communities, we want to show our young, rurally-based talent that they can also flourish like their peers with access to the likes of the State Theatre in Pretoria and the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. Ultimately, we are looking to bring about community renewal and address moral decay in our society. We need to revive old-time cultural exchanges and re-kindle an awareness among youngsters, that performing arts are a worthy pastime. ”
Because of Nyalungu’s study ties to UNIVEN, Struu Artzz Entertainment, which includes students from that institution, operates mainly in Thohoyandou and involves youth from the surrounding community. The organisation also has branches such as Letlhabile Youth Centre in Tzaneen and another at KwaMhlanga, in Mpumalanga.
The R100,000 prize won
He wants to invest the R100,000 prize that came with the Studentpreneur of the Year Award, in uplifting more raw and untamed talent of performing artists and technological creatives. “The funds will also help us go deeper into digital. We have seen in the CoVID-19 pandemic, how going digital made a difference. We want to train young creatives in media, web design, graphic design and other information technology fields while helping them make a living, notwithstanding the pandemic.”
After being announced the overall winner last Friday, Nyalungu says he first broke the news to his partner, now pursuing his Honours in Media and Literature Studies, at UNIVEN. Soon word spread around. Associates have told him that they screamed their lungs out with excitement, wherever they received the news.
“They say they felt it was about time. And I concur. This is our time,” Nyalungu concluded, audibly emotional once again, yet still on a high lingering from the event of 27 November.
The EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition finals were a culmination of what has been building up from the first quarter of 2020, at all 26 public universities. Students who won in the institutional rounds went on to compete within their regions, at which level the 28 finalists who competed last week were identified. All in all, 16 public universities made it to the finals, and, of those, four won the top spots in entrepreneurship.
The writer, ‘Mateboho Green, is Manager: Corporate Communication at Universities South Africa.