After a gruelling 4-hour judging process, University of Pretoria Soil Science student, Palesa Motaung, has emerged the South African champion in the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) run Global Student Entrepreneurs Awards (GSEA) which took place in Johannesburg. This annual student competition recognises students who successfully run a business while studying full time.
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 repurposing 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 ha.”
As the winner of the South African leg of this global competition, Motaung will fly to Toronto, Canada in April to represent the country amongst winners from other countries. As part of this 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 peer-to-peer network, EO.
“I am absolutely delighted at winning the competition, it was a nerve wrecking 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”, says the 28-year-old who hails from Spruitview, Johannesburg.
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, providing 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 says 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. My business has benefitted tremendously since I won the competition last year. 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,” she says.
Sbusiso Buna, one of the judges, who also runs the University of Pretoria Business Incubator, says that SA needs to upgrade the quality of entrepreneurship ideas beyond the tuckshop.
“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,” he says.
Daniel Nel, chair of GSEA South Africa, says that 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. These students work hard to build their businesses while studying, 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.”