Azola Qhina, MEDO’s Treppie Manager’s focus is building a strong entrepreneurial spirit in underserved and underserviced communities across South Africa. She dives into the technical aspects of MEDO’s learning centre used for Space Prep and Foundation Business Skills workshops, and explains the relationship between these two amazing initiatives. Article by Azola Qhina.
Treppie, short for entrepreneur, is a mobile learning centre that goes around the country with the aim of inspiring the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. Having been in action since 2012, the truck has grown from an business-focused learning mechanism to currently also being the vehicle in which Space Prep one-day workshops are delivered.
Having had over four years experience with the old truck, we have come to learn what works and what the unique requirements are of the truck. We are powering all technology with Solar Cells and an Inverter, which makes us energy independent meaning we can set up shop anywhere regardless of facilities or infrastructure. We are also using state of the art technology to ensure the fastest internet speeds possible. Apart from reaching entrepreneurs, the truck will also be used to facilitate a series of Space Prep workshops at local high schools.
We are hoping to find a truckful of enterprising young women at the high school workshops, and the fact that we will be travelling throughout South Africa, we will have the greatest ever opportunity to do so. Treppie will be in action this year three weeks per month, and will therefore hold nothing back when moving into communities. I foresee that we will help a lot of people not only better their technology skills but effectively empower them to find opportunities around them after our various workshops.
We are always delighted to bring the Treppie to underserved and underserviced communities in what we believe presents a great opportunity for us to assist in the development of emerging enterprises – a vital sector spearheading economic growth in our country. In doing this we have also created a unique opportunity for large organisations to involve themselves with these businesses and in doing so to advance their Enterprise Development and Supplier Development strategies.
The fact that Treppie reaches out to both budding entrepreneurs and high schools is a key aspect to the programme. Firstly, we establish a working relationship with the communities so that when we come in to town, residents have either heard of us or have seen us before and feel comfortable enough to come in for advice or workshops. Secondly, we have to prove that we are not just a one-stop-shop. When we have Space Prep workshops we emphasise to our young participants that innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset is key to success, we need to grow a generation of employers, not employees. So what we are doing is that we are empowering these young women with technical skills and an innovative mindset, so that when we come a few years later when they have left school, we are there to assist them in building their businesses. The idea is that we walk these excited minds through the whole process of becoming successful business men- and women though an emphasis on skills development, whether focusing on technical foundation business skills in order to inspire a strong spirit of entrepreneurship.
So how do we inspire this spirit of entrepreneurship?
We spend a week in one area where we conduct Opportunity Identification workshops for the first two days. This is important because the first stage in creating a small business is to come up with an idea. Sources of ideas are varied, so we encourage people to read, keep up to date with what is happening in their respective communities by reading newspapers. From this, they get to identify what other people see as a problem and get to come up with a solution. They get to realize that if there is a problem, there’s a need and therefore, an opportunity for someone to provide a solution.
On the third day we do an Introduction to Business workshop. This workshop helps them decide what to sell and to who, where the market is, determine pricing as well as help them network in order to build relationships with other entrepreneurs. Essentially, we share with them the practical steps that they can take to starting a business and how to articulate their offering.
The final day is the Friday Pitch. This is where the participants get to apply what they have learnt throughout the week. They get an opportunity to pitch and receive constructive feedback. This is great because they get to learn how to articulate their value proposition. In addition, it helps them to build their confidence as well as presentation skills.
Now that they’ve gone through the workshops – then what?
Depending on the stage of their businesses – they have an opportunity to apply for one of MEDO’s developmental programmes including the International Trade Programme.
However, the most important question is WHY? South Africa faces a high unemployment rate and a large entrepreneurial gap. Entrepreneurship has increasingly become the major driver of competition, innovation and growth and it is very important for us to cultivate that spirit of entrepreneurship.
The communities that we visit have limited access to information and other resources to help them develop their ideas into sustainable businesses. For some people starting and owning a business is unimaginable because they are unable to see beyond their circumstances. Our goal is to change this mind-set. We encourage people to take that first step, to have the guts to show up and be seen. We are saying one does not have to be an MBA graduate to start a business or have a lot of money. All they need is passion, commitment, perseverance and the rest will follow. So instead of waiting to be employed, which is highly competitive, we encourage the community members to start their own businesses and create job opportunities and therefore, building the economy one job at a time.