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Winning business awards helps provide traction, publicity for student entrepreneurs

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By Daniel Mpala

From gaining traction, publicity to getting new clients, the inaugural edition of South Africa’s EDHE National Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition finals have given some of the winners a boost with their respective businesses.

Last month, four student entrepreneurs Musa Maluleka, Penang Shirindza, Denislav Marinov and Mvelo Hlope emerged the winners of the inaugural edition of the national competition.

The competition is held by the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), an initiative of the Department of Higher Education and Training, and Universities South Africa (Usaf).

The competition, which is supported by Allan Gray Orbis FoundationSAB Foundation and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), identifies, recognises and supports student entrepreneurship at public universities in South Africa.

In addition to identifying the top student entrepreneurs at each university, the competition also aims to showcase their businesses and invite investment into the startups.

Over 1155 student entrepreneurs applied for the competition. Wits University student Maluleka, Rhodes University’s Shirindza and UCT students Marinov and Hlope emerged winners and walked away with R10 000 each in prize money.

In addition, Hlope and his startup Zaio won the grand prize of R50 000.

But, just how important is winning a national entrepreneurship competition like this one to these young entrepreneurs?

Engaging with other young entrepreneurs

Marinov (pictured above, left) has been working in the area of 3D printing for the past seven years. Three years ago he founded DVM Designs, a company that specialises the local production of 3D printers for use in educations and industry.

The startup also helps its clients bring their ideas to life through rapid prototyping and end user part production.

Marinov and his firm won the existing business, tech category.

He says although the monetary rewards are helpful for research and design (R&D), the most beneficial outcome was engaging with other young and talented individuals who are making significant changes in their respective communities and industries.

He says seeing the incredibly high standard of student businesses in South Africa has renewed his sense of hope for “our beautiful country”.

“Apart from the competition itself, the event was a fertile ground for establishing significant relationships and growing networks. It gave individuals the opportunity to engage with industry leaders and governmental entities, subsequently catapulting their businesses to new heights.

“Receiving the award has given my business traction and publicity, improving client confidence and awareness of my business,” says Marinov.

He explains that the awards have led to him to acquire three new clients. These he says include individuals who have project ideas and corporates who need branded merchandise.

Validation

Hlope, who started coding platform Zaio 2017, says he and his team treat their victory in the competition’s existing business, social impact category as validation that what they are doing is “indeed impactful”.

“More than anything, the awards are the small wins that keep us going.

“At this point, the real reward for us is seeing someone earn a living through our platform or seeing an entrepreneur being able to start validating their idea through tech that we have built for them,” adds Hlope.

Zaio’s platform enables businesses to access a pool of elite junior developers to build their prototypes, hire as a team or recruit for full-time employment.

The startup also equips developers with industry-relevant coding skills through a gamified learning curriculum with a strong emphasis on getting them practical experience.

Reward for work put in

For Penang Shirindza, the co-founder of digital advertising startup Urban Play, winning the competition’s innovative business idea category was important as it came as a reward for all the hard work he’s put in into the company.

Shirindza founded the startup last year together with Dean Mokena. It specialises in digital advertising and signage technology.

“Winning this is important for me as I can be an inspiration for others and to show that success and life improvement and dreams are possible,” says Shirindza.

Featured image: DVM founder Designs Denislav Marinov (DVM Designs)

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