By Lehlogonolo Masuku
The Rhodes University Business School is gearing up for an entrepreneurship hub in the Steve Biko building. The project is championed by Business School Professor Tshidi Mohapeloa, who also coordinates of Postgraduate Diploma in Enterprises Management at the Business School.
The project started with her submitting a proposal application to Small Enterprises Development Agency (SEDA), which then looked at funding entrepreneurship hubs in the Universities and got her application approved. Now, the Makhanda community have a house to develop business ideas.
“My mindset is that even if you don’t become an entrepreneur, at least possess the innovative mindset,” said Mohapeloa.
The primary objective of the hub is to develop the students irrespective of the faculty because students tend to go through the metamorphosis of a career change, which would be their opportunity. The idea of the start-up addresses the challenge of the growing unemployment in the country, and the community of Makhanda is not immune to these socio-economic provocations. Through innovation, entrepreneurs can blur the contour lines of government policies and operate in a flexible space.
Mohapeloa contends, “The point is that, as a student, you can be an employer and have other students working for you while driving the vision”. There is a multi-disciplinary collaboration of the stakeholders who are equally invested in the project’s success. Rhodes University is a primary player, the Small Enterprises Development Agency (SEDA), and a plethora of societies that bring the element of entrepreneurship within the University. The hub is looking to merge and collaborate towards maintaining the value of an entrepreneurship mindset.
“We are working with the University’s technology transfer office due to the research output of the postgraduate students. We believe you can develop intellectual property (IP) and are looking at ways to strengthen the value of research commercialization in start-ups,” she said.
Once in operation, the hub will get a full-time centre manager and a business development support office to assist with the following:
- Business support in terms of growth and expansion
- The network gives access to markets, potential investors, and brand marketing.
The centre will be open to the community; its significance is contributing to the local community and improving the operations ecosystem. Rhodes University has a centre of excellence, and through the hub, it will be possible for the locals to use the corner to develop their ideas. Mohapeloa added, “When skills and research merge, a constructive project emerges”. The community forms part of the clientele, and they can define the solutions to their challenges. The centre will open anytime soon when the structural improvements have been concluded at the Steve Biko building.