A class of 35 students from the UCT Graduate School of Business?s Raymond Ackerman Academy recently embarked on an insightful tour of the bustling Manenberg suburb with the help of the Proudly Manenberg organisation to identify opportunities for innovative businesses in the community as part of their new Innovation Series course.
The Academy, inspired and supported by of one of SA?s most renowned entrepreneurs, Raymond Ackerman, the key objective of which are to impart business skills and promote self-development among young people in South Africa, introduced the Innovation Series course as an additional component to their six-month intensive learning programme in an effort to encourage students to think "out of the box? when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Director of the Academy, Elli Yiannakaris, explained that the reason for the new addition to the course was to promote free-thinking and motivate students to look outside of the confines of traditional enterprises to come up with innovative and original business ideas.
"The students were excited to put-to-practise what they had learned in theory with the help of Innovations Series lecturer Charles Maisel, and the community of Manenberg, with its social and infrastructural challenges and opportunities, provided just the right platform for them to engage in creative and innovative thinking around entrepreneurship,' said Yiannakaris.
With assistance from the non-profit community-based organisation Proudly Manenberg, led by Vice Chairperson Mario Wanza, the students were given the grand tour of Manenberg and were shown all the businesses that are currently in operation in the community.
Their job was to identify the gaps in the market and investigate the potential for new businesses which would benefit the community and its objective for development and job creation.
After the tour everyone met for a workshop where all the ideas the students identified were discussed, with the objective being for Proudly Manenberg to investigate if any of the ideas could possibly be implemented.
According to Maisel, the students didn?t disappoint and came up with several creative ideas. Among them, to create a non-profit organisation that provides incentives over a 10 year period to keep kids in school.
This idea, based on a Mexican model, gives incentives, like food and clothing for children to stay in school. "This idea was formed when the students learnt that in Manenberg only 20% of students matriculate every year,' said Maisel.
Other ideas included the formation of a maintenance company of young people who can maintain buildings in Manenberg and an "urban farm? where residents would grow a particular fruit and produce a variety of products with that fruit. It is hoped that Manenberg would become well known for this produce and possibly even host regular festivals to promote the products.
"Some of the business ideas were indeed creative,' said Wanza. He added that Proudly Manenberg would use this unique opportunity to expand on their on-going work in the community.
"One of our greatest objectives is to create more businesses in the community so that people who live here can find employment here and we want to see our community develop into a thriving hub of prospects. I envision a continued relationship between Proudly Manenberg and the Raymond Ackerman Academy and would eventually like the students to help us make some of these ideas a reality,' he said.
Yiannakaris believes that this kind of project has endless benefits for both the community and the students of the Academy.
"The students have made a significant contribution to the Manenberg community by thinking innovatively and focusing on the needs of the community to come up with business ideas. With the resources and backing of Proudly Manenberg I believe these ideas could be made into prosperous businesses.
Yiannakaris added that another key objective of the Raymond Ackerman Academy is to instil a sense of social responsibility in their students so that they become conscious individuals who know and understand the problems facing different communities in South Africa.
"When they leave the Academy, we want them to leave with the tools that will enable them to influence change in society through entrepreneurship. The work they have done in the community of Manenberg has provided a wonderful start to this process, it was definitely a worthwhile undertaking,' she said.