By: Sisanda Ntshinga
The Anzisha Prize takes things forward by looking back at how far it’s come showcasing its shared achievements with fellows, partners and various stakeholders
It has been 10 years of the Anzisha Prize and we launched the celebrations in Cape Town in March with past Anzisha fellows, parents, teachers and some of our partners. The three-day event focused on how far the Anzisha Prize has come, but also where its headed and how key stakeholders can play a role in ensuring very young entrepreneurs move forward on their respective journeys. This year’s theme ‘Sankofa’ is the perfect way to celebrate the work Anzisha has done and continues to do. The word is from the Ghanaian language Twi and means “We have the capacity to revisit the past and extract knowledge and wisdom that we need to remake the future”, this year’s first celebration did just that – looked back to move forward.
Day one focused on sharing knowledge and stories from researchers, the journey of some fellows and workshops that saw the guests diving into problem solving focus groups to play their part in assisting the way forward on helping very young entrepreneurs (VYE) pursue their goals. Vice President Josh Adler opened the event by reiterating the importance of the collective effort to ensure VYE’s have opportunities. “We need different role models and our fellows will be that for entrepreneurs to follow. Young people hire young people who are their peers and there’s an opportunity there.”
The keynote address by 2014 Anzisha fellow Kola Olajide, focused on lessons he’s learnt as an entrepreneur which included being intentional about personal development as an entrepreneur. “Hard work is non-negotiable with every new stage in entrepreneurship. You have to constantly bring your A – game,” he says. Olajide advised entrepreneurs to play according to their strengths and be serving leaders. “Developing people also allows you to trust your employees and know your company is in good hands when you’re not there.”
And although hard work always pays off, as an African entrepreneur there are several stumbling blocks along the way that make the journey that much more difficult. Researchers Dr Paul Issock and Dr Ntsimi Mtwa highlighted some of the challenges they came across while studying the journey of very young entrepreneurs on the continent. Some of these challenges include limited access to formal finance, tax systems and regulations, corruption, administrative bottlenecks and lack of formalisation of young SME’s. The researchers gave several pointers on how we could change entrepreneurship from a necessity to an opportunity, including adding entrepreneurship to the school curriculum and exposing children to business earlier. “We need to change mindset and make it OK and not shameful to be an entrepreneur,” says Dr Issock.
The highlight of the day was hearing from the VYE’s themselves on a panel which included founder of TQ Group Services and 2016 fellow Faustino Quissico from Mozambique, The Trea Garden Cafe founder Amanda Jojo from the 2018 cohort, as well as 2019 fellow Godiragetse Mogajane who is the founder of Goodie Tutors in South Africa. The trio shared some of their achievements, what it took to get there and some of the things they have struggled with as business owners. They all agreed the most common problem they faced was the support needed to run a business in the early stages. “It’s important to have the people in your circle support you. My mom is the most supportive person in my life. She stresses when I stress too and I’m really grateful,” says Mogajane.
Wellness was also high on the list of needs for entrepreneurs to thrive according to the fellows. “Wellness is extremely important especially when the business is going through hardships. You always have to make sure that you take care of yourself through it all,” says Jojo.
Day two and three were both closed sessions focusing more on the relationship between VYE’s and their parents, peer to peer coaching, educator training and an investor speed dating session where investment ready fellows could pitch. On the last day of the 10 year celebrations event, the Anzisha team partnered with high schools and universities for storytelling sessions for students. The sessions were a fitting way to end three days of looking back to go forward, with fellows sharing their stories with potential future entrepreneurs.
Featured image: Attendees at the 2020 Very Young Entrepreneur Education & Acceleration Summit in Cape Town (Photo Credit: Mfundo Mbanze)