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Tshilidzi Ramuedzisi, Total South Africa Innovation and Corporate Affairs Manager, Themba Sehawu, Bathabile Mpofu, Nkazimulo Applied Sciences and Michelle Charlie, Total Organisational Development Manager

Total South Africa, today, 14 August 2017, officially announced the conclusion of the 2016 leg of the Total Startupper of the Year Challenge.

The 2016 leg, which was the third iteration of the challenge, kicked off in October 2016 in South Africa and 33 other African countries.

South Africa’s Startuppers of the Year have gone through an intensive 9 month programme where they have been trained, mentored and coached by some of the business landscape’s leading institutions, mentors and coaches.

“It has been a long journey for the Startuppers to get to where they are and as is the nature of entrepreneurship – the journey is far from over. There is more to come, challenges that they will have to meet head on, and confront. Ahead lies success and growth, but also opportunities to falter and learn. This is not only true for them, but it is true for all who run businesses and organisations that contribute to our African economies. The difference with the Startuppers is that they are now better positioned to meet these coming milestones,” says Tshilidzi Ramuedzisi, Total South Africa Innovation and Corporate Affairs Manager. 

“I believe that going through the last nine months of training, mentorship and coaching has readied them to handle these coming milestones in their stride with courage of their conviction. That is what this entire programme has really been about – to help arm these movers and shakers with an arsenal of tools and resources that they can tap into to grow their businesses, improve their lives, improve the communities within which they live, and contribute to the economy of South Africa,” continues Ramuedzisi. 

The Total Startupper Challenge winners won a share of the total prize money of ZAR1 200 000. With the monetary prize came mentorship sessions with reputable business personalities from the African business landscape, business coaches from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) and a training programme with GIBS that saw them build their own capacities in running their business ventures.

The expert panel of judges who poured through the entries went through 437 entries across various industries and picked three winners:

Nkazimulo Applied Sciences – a business venture led by Bathabile and Roderick Mpofu assists high school learners with science education by helping them gain a closer relationship with scientific concepts. The venture creates chemistry kits with 52 different experiments for safe use within a home environment – planned with one-experiment-per-week-for-a-whole year in mind. The experiments in the kit are safe to do at home and more than anything, helps learners apply their minds to sciences within everyday life situations, linking back to the high school curriculum.

Senovate – Senovate is an innovation company founded and run by inventor, Themba Sehawu. Sehawu developed a fruit picking machine that allows farm workers to pick fruit without having to elevate themselves. This innovative machine picks, prunes and places fruit in a harvesting bag – all in one go. This agricultural tool increases safety and efficiency when harvesting and is a much needed implement for the large agriculture sector in South Africa.

ConnectMed – a business venture that brings technology and health together, ConnectMed is the brainchild of Oyena Zwelijongile Gwebityala, Melissa McCoy, Smisosenkosi Skosana and Sekeitto Allan-Roy. The solution is an online telemedicine platform designed particularly for African communities. ConnectMed connects certified doctors with those in need through; video, text and machine learning-based tools. The offering is low cost and high quality and is accessible to those in need (a fingertip away from solid, professional advice). ConnectMed could not be launched in South Africa due to legal restrictions and the entrepreneurs decided to launch in Kenya where this was possible.

On 16 May 2017, a representative from each winning business venture graduated after a three-month training stint with GIBS in Illovo, Johannesburg. From Nkazimulo Applied Sciences, Bathabile Mpofu attended and graduated, and from Senovate, Themba Sehawu was the graduand. Each entrepreneur received a Certificate of Completion from the GIBS Enterprise Development Academy. The founding director at GIBS EDA, Yogavelli Nambiar said the training programme is targeted at encouraging innovation in entrepreneurship, particularly youth entrepreneurship.

While the prize money is very important for the entrepreneurs, the education pillar is even more important. It speaks to resources, coaching and mentoring – elements that entrpereneurs gravely need to succeed.

“Mentorship is the biggest gap in our entrepreneurship and small business landscape. What we have is a great deal of talent, passion, grit and not much resources in terms of mentorship and coaching support. This is one of the beacons of the Total Startupper Challenge, to bridge that knowledge gap between budding entrepreneurs and established businesses by putting Startuppers in front of solid mentors, with great pedigree, and experience in running businesses and organisations. Bridging that gap allows for a flow of much needed, and quite priceless knowledge and insight that budding entrepreneurs use in running their business ventures.”

“As the year progresses, and as we conclude the 2016/17 leg of the programme, we are reviewing processes to better them for the next Total Startupper Challenge 2017, which we will be announcing in a couple of months. The key pillars of the programme: resources, training, coaching and mentorship will remain as they really are the proof points of the efficacy of the programme. Through this campaign, we really help uplift entrepreneurs and help them energise the communities within which they live for today and tomorrow,” concludes Ramuedzisi.

The 2017/18 leg of the Total Startupper Challenge will soon be announced across the 34 markets within which it has been running simultaneously since 2015. As is the norm, entrepreneurs will be given ample time to submit their ideas and be in the running to being Startuppers of the Year.

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