By Tusani Mnyandu
“Die lewe is nie pap en vleis nie,” the saying goes. But Ntobeko Songcata under the capable mentorship of businessperson Ron Weissenberg is proving this saying wrong and is braaing his way to the top.
Just a year ago, Ntobeko founded Prolen Braai on the Move, a pop-up braai concept to respond to a need by Rhodes University students for getting a meal with less hassle. Prolen Braain on the move went on to win the Provincial EDHE (Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education) Intervarsity competition, in the “existing businesses” category, beating all the Universities in the Eastern Cape Province in the process.
Songcata, who also goes by the name Promise, promises consistent quality in his product offering, and he is a man renowned for keeping his promises, according to Weissenberg. The pair promised to pull out all the stops in ensuring that they come back with the national prize. What makes the victory for Songcata even more worthwhile is the fact that he competed and won against entrants from business schools and commerce faculties from Rhodes University and the entire Eastern Cape. Songcata is a Masters Student in Microbiology. He started his entrepreneurial journey in the traditional way of selling sweets and chips until he met up with his mentor, who propelled him to pursuing entrepreneurship in earnest.
Grocott’s Mail sat down with the duo to hear about their journey so far and their plans for the future.
“Many people want to be mentored but are not prepared to go through the processes,” said Weissenberg. “With Promise, it was different. I did not want to agree to it at first because I had a lot on my plate and did not have time but he chased me until I caught him.
“Promise was prepared to do the tough work, midnight shifts and put up with a grumpy, old-school mentor from the world of hard knocks.”
Weissenberg describes himself as a serial entrepreneur in his own right, having started at the age of 7 and had many businesses failing, he is quick to clarify that in life there is no failure but only feedback. He is currently focused on mining ventures.
The Intervarsity entrepreneurship competition is in its second year of running. It is funded through the University Capacity Development Programme of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), it is supported by Universities South Africa (USAf) and other partners. The competition is currently on stage 3, which is a regional (provincial) round. Other provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal are still in this round.
The Prolen Braai on the Move team is not resting, though, and is monitoring the competition in the other provinces. The competition has four stages, starting with the registration and submission of entries.
Stage 2 is the intervarsity round, i.e. competitors from one university compete for a spot in the regional round (Stage 3). Stage 4 is the national final round. For this, the participants are transported and accommodated for two days as the guests of EDHE, while they participate in the finals and attend the third annual Studentpreneurs Indaba as VIP guests. These details may change due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The national final round is scheduled to take place at the end of November this year and the winner walks away with a whopping R 100 000 cash prize.
The pandemic has had a negative impact on the business of Prolen Braai on The Move, as lockdown regulations meant they couldn’t open or move around. The team is however determined to find innovative ways of making sure that the business continues.
Although it is at its infancy stage, the business was already employing eight people – four men and four women -and is doing its bit in addressing youth unemployment. The business concept has been tested in East London as well, and the owners believe that a mobile kitchen will go a long way in expanding the concept. They’re also planning to add a musical flavour, which means you will enjoy a great meal and music all at once.
The divides of age, backgrounds race and generation gaps and the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and in inequality can be tackled with entrepreneurship. Grocott’s Mail wishes Prolen Braai on the Move team the best as they compete in the national rounds.