Against this background, there is an urgent need to address these challenges, thus the establishment of the University of Mpumalanga Centre for Entrepreneurship Rapid Incubator (UMP CFERI), aims to support start-ups – UMP students and alumni, and local entrepreneurs to nurture and grow ideas as well as benefit small and emerging businesses in the province.
The UMP CFERI will contribute towards improving entrepreneurship development as well as halting the increase in poverty within the region. Under the leadership of Dr Kanayo Ogujiuba, the Project Coordinator and Centre Manager and with Ilze Macdonald as the project assistant and Business Development Manager, the Centre aims to take on entrepreneurs and support them through a pre-incubation process and then incubation process to develop sustainable businesses.
“It will benefit students by offering them training and support to any student from any qualification that may be interested in entrepreneurship. There is a Moodle page on the ITS interface of UMP, where training and other opportunities for entrepreneurs, like funding opportunities, are advertised,” says Ogujiuba.
He further explains that the purpose of the Centre is to provide space and support services to new and emerging small businesses, and diminish the poverty stance in the province.
“UMP CFERI support services will include both financial and non-financial services, including but not limited to new business incubation, access to information, finance, markets and strategic partners for growth, training, R&D facilities and supply chain management.”
The Centre currently supports seven clients in the pre-incubation process working on their business plans and another client preparing for the pre-incubation process.
“Four of the seven clients are start-up businesses that are already operating and two are students with business ideas, preparing to start operating in the near future. We are hopeful that five of the clients currently supported will be ready to enter the incubation process before March 2021 and that we will be able to take on another five in the pre-incubation process during January and February 2021,” says Dr Ogujiuba.
During the National Lockdown, the Centre offered three online workshops and trained start-up businesses and students. The training was offered in the form of Zoom sessions and pre-recorded presentations.
“The training was on business plans, finances, presentation skills and market research. In November 2020 the Centre partnered with SEDA Mpumalanga and other stakeholders to start a 10-month coaching programme for SMMEs,” he says.
More training opportunities, including workshops and seminars, are planned for 2021. We hope to have at least five clients in the incubation process by March 2021 and to be able to take on between two and five clients in the pre-incubation process each month. During the pre-incubation process business ideas are formulated, a business profile is prepared and a development plan is agreed upon and the business plan is finalised. After the pre-incubation process the client is evaluated and invited to join the incubation process.
The Centre has collaborated with local businesses, which are also represented on the Advisory Board: Manganese Metal Company (MMC), Kishugu Group and Thomas Varghese Consulting. The Centre building is currently under renovation and will be fully functional by March 2021. “The launch of the Centre was planned for March 2020 but due to the lockdown the launch was put on ice. We did however continue with the establishment of the Centre.”
Dr Ogujiuba says UMP students who are interested in the project can send an email and they will receive the necessary information.
“Even if you only have a business idea and you do not know where to start, the Centre will work with you to formulate your business idea and start working on a feasibility study and business plan.”
Interested students can an email to: email@example.com to join the Moodle page and receive all the correspondence and information.
@ Story and Pictures by Cleopatra Makhaga.