I am 21-years-old and I am originally from Bloemfontein in the Free State. In Grade 11 I had to quit school because both my parents had passed away and I needed to support myself. For a year or so I worked at a DSTV company installing satellite dishes, after which I started my own business selling fruit and vegetables from a small stall in one of the surrounding informal settlements.Although I managed to get by, I still had dreams of studying and creating a career for myself.
The year before last, my cousin who lives in De Aar told me about the Northern Cape Rural FET College in De Aar where I could study Hospitality for two years on a government bursary. I am now in my second year of study and even though I see many other students drop out, I am determined to finish. I am very lucky because I really enjoy this field of study and when I am done the qualifications will be equal to that of a matric.
When I heard about the Solar Capital Entrepreneurial Development Youth Programme at the beginning of this year I decided to join. I think it is important to keep your options open and learn as much as you can. Also,I am able to do this course alongside my studies.
The programme has been very helpful to me as it has allowed me to see that there are opportunities if you look for them. I learnt a lot, like business skills and marketing, but most importantly how to look for the right opportunity.
I discussed a number of business ideas with my mentors, and we eventually decided on something we all thought would work. Once the business is up and running I will be able to carry on with it alongside my studies, or something else I do.
My idea is to recycle plastic bottles. There is so much rubbish around De Aar that we would not run short, and it would clean up the area for us locals. Also, my mentors tell me that the return on plastic is much higher than that on cardboard boxes for example. During the week people could collect plastic and bring it to me. I will pay them for this. Then on the weekends I could go and collect plastic myself. There is a local waste broker here in De Aar that I would sell all of this to.
I haven’t yet set up my business, but when I do, the extra income will be a big help in my personal life. I will also use any extra income to put towards growing my business further.
The average man on the street in South Africa doesn’t have knowledge about what is going on inside and outside a business. This programme assisted us in learning so much about the admin side of business. I think it is valuable because South Africa has such a high unemployment rate, and if we entrepreneurs create successful businesses we can create further jobs for other people who are unemployed. We would give other people a chance.
Informal rubbish dump in De Aar East
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Xolile Sotho outside Solar Capital’s Community Development Centre