The Mobile Entrepreneurs Program (MEP) engaged more aspiring entrepreneurs, street vendors, and small business owners this past month through intensive training workshops in entrepreneurship, financial literacy and technology skills in the Johannesburg townships of Ratanda, Thokoza, Orange Farm, and Meyerton, bringing the total number of people served through the 2013-2014 program year to over 375. In between educational workshops and activities, Local Master Trainer, James Sekhonyane led group brainstorming sessions focused on discussing relevant topics in entrepreneurship, such as how to convert community challenges into opportunities for small business creation, defining essential characteristics of an entrepreneur, and best practices for collective fundraising and improving financial literacy. In Thokoza, MEP engaged 23 young aspiring entrepreneurs, of which 80% were women, who were eager to start their own businesses after celebrating Youth Day in South Africa. The women were empowered through sessions focused on key challenges such as how to find start-up funding. 33 year-old Moureen came to the workshop with the goal of developing more formal business skills for running her 'spaza' or 'tuck' shop, a small neighborhood corner store selling items ranging from food, drinks, cooking supplies and airtime for mobile phones. After learning practical skills she could apply toward improving her business, Moureen felt confident that her shop would "operate more efficiently and productively," going forward. "I learned the importance of taking inventory and calculating all my expenses to be able to cut costs.’’ she said.
This postcard is written by Chi Nguyen, our In-The-Field Traveler for Southern Africa. Chi will be traveling to the nine countries of Southern Africa over a span of six months, visiting and assisting our current partner organizations.
On Friday, April 11th, I had the privilege of sitting in on one of One Global Economy's MEP (Mobile Entrepreneur Program) Workshops. Although James, OGE's MEP workshop facilitator, had given me the background on the purpose and impact of the workshops previously, I was completely unaware of the powerful and inspiring presentations and conversations that I would bear witness to that day.
The workshop started off with the participants breaking into smaller groups and brainstorming at least five "Challenges Entrepreneurs Face" with their five corresponding "Solutions to Challenges Entrepreneurs Face". When it came time to present, the groups discussed everything from funding to market saturation to unethical behavior of employees. The workshop was dynamic and interactive throughout, with groups providing positive feedback or points of improvement to each presenter, and the presenter reacting with a positive smile. James does a good job in encouraging as much constructive criticism as possible, stating something along the lines of, "We are all here to help each other, no? If you keep quiet, you are withholding information that might otherwise be useful to your peers! These are not abstract problems - we may all face these problems one day, and if we help each other through the thinking now, we can all be more prepared in the future." This encourages all workshop participants to share their ideas, no matter how big or small, to the entire room.
The workshop activities close with everyone presenting their two-minute sales pitch of their product to the classroom, something that they've been working towards since the beginning of the week. Almost every single person was nervous, but were repeatedly buoyed by the classroom's reaction. The workshop participants found a good balance between being positively supportive and productive with their criticism for one another, and this inspired one workshop participant who had stumbled through her sales pitch of her future hair salon to voluntarily present her sales pitch one more time at the end of the workshop. She passed with flying colors, and the applause in the room was both hearty and heartfelt, with everyone smiling and congratulating her on her excellent delivery.
It was graduation day, and when everyone finished their sales pitch speeches, each participant came up to the front of the room, one by one, to receive their Certificate of Achievement and to have their photo taken. As we sat waiting for the informal ceremony to start, one participant gushed about the week-long program. She told me how, because of MEP, she has learned how to budget money, how to speak in front of others, how to start a business, and how to see past the obstacles to the opportunities. She told me that she now knows how to differentiate between her needs and her wants, to prioritize for her future, to save instead of spending just for the sake of spending. She has learned the difference between immediate and delayed gratification, and she gestures enthusiastically as she tells me how thankful she is for this program and how much of a difference it has made in her life in only just one week. I tell her that I completely see what she means, even after only having spent one day in the Mobile Entrepreneurs Program. She and I laughed as I said, "How I wish I could attend this program myself!"
OGE's South Africa Mobile Entrepreneur's Program is continuing to engage the Johannesburg townships of Heidelburg, Daveyton, Thokoza, and Orange Farm and Austerville in Durban with intensive entrepreneurship, financial literacy and technology educational workshops. Currently, OGE is delivering its 2nd round of workshops with a schedule of 8 week-long workshops through April. In addition to the communities listed above, OGE has established new partnerships with additional Siyafunda CTC community computer centers located in Ivory Park and Meyerton, Johannesburg as well as with the Lamontville Community Library in Durban to reach more communities with high demand and enthusiasm for entrepreneurial trainin
g. In January, OGE's South Africa Manager and MEP Trainer monitored the progress of the October Round 1 participants through virtual mentoring sessions and weekly text messages that provide information and tips, as well as check in on results. Out of the 126 participants, 1) 70% opened a bank account 2) 93% created a business plan 3) 20% increased their savings for business growth by 25% 4) 6% monitored bank accounts online and/or through SMS alerts 5) 15% accessed 10 government and/or private local services for education and/or financial support using the Internet 6) 10% increased profits by 20% 8) 7% increased new business opportunities by 15% 9) 8% established partnerships in a joint business venture, and 10) 25% found job opportunities online. So far this round, training has engaged 101 more participants.
Workshops have focused on business planning skills, communications in business, and sales pitch presentation skills as well as identifying community issues as opportunities to propose business solutions and increase local economic participation. A group of participants attended the training to further their business goals in running a small-scale farm for which they have just been granted land. Their focus is on driving sales among low-income earners to provide them with high quality and fresh produce. The group found the session on time and goal management very relevant to accomplishing their business vision. "The training has equipped us with the skills to plan properly and execute our plans,” said Bongani, one of the business owners.
Nthabiseng, Avelyna, Puseletso, Zandile, and Swazi, pictured, have decided to partner in a joint venture to open up a fast food business. “The training has given us an edge to pursue our dreams,” they said.
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