Start Up fosters high school entrepreneurship

This is the third year of their highly innovative approach to creating a culture of entrepreneurship among high school learners from schools in the townships and underserviced areas.

You know you are at an important event when a venue is jam-packed with hundreds of vibrant young people, and Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and Zanele Mbeki, founder of the Women Development Businesses Trust are present.

The guest speaker was Robert Kiyosaki, international business speaker and author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad who is committed to helping young people to become financially literate.

Primestars Marketing MD Martin Sweet has been instrumental in the conception and success of the Step Up 2 a Start Up, which uses cinemas throughout SA as “educational theatres of learning” in a national youth entrepreneurship development initiative.

Their maths and science programmes for high school learners is expected to fill 30,000 seats in 14 cinemas countrywide over 10 weeks from July to September. Their other focus areas, including financial literacy and career guidance, receive attention in the first part of the year.

Step Up 2 a Start Up III’s five-week programme was launched on August 6. Learners were transported to 15 Ster Kinekor cinemas where they watched an educational feature film with a startup social entrepreneurship message, Vukuzenzele (Get up and do it for yourselves).

Sweet says 16,000 learners attend the programme annually.

“In the first phase of Step Up 2 a Start Up — think big, start small, act now — we focused on the services industry. The second phase — design it, make it, sell it — focused on the maker movement,” he explains.

“This year’s programme, Step Up 2 a Start Up III: My Planet, My People, My Purpose – Making it My Smart Business, focuses on social and environmental entrepreneurship. Our aim is to inspire and up-skill secondary school learners to find innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social and environmental problems.

“Social and environmental entrepreneurship acts as an agent of change for society by taking advantage of opportunities to improve systems, invent new approaches and create solutions to change society for the better.”

All participants are given social entrepreneur toolkits – an excellent, practical step-by-step guide on entrepreneurship. As part of the programme, grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 learners enter the national social entrepreneurs competition.

They are required to identify an environmental or social problem in their schools or communities that can be solved by developing a product or service; conduct research on it and give a presentation on the service or product with a detailed description of how it can improve their communities. The top three teams, with the most promising business models, will be awarded bursaries to further develop their ideas.

PRIMESTARS Marketing’s key partners in Step Up 2 a Start Up include Sasol, the National Youth Development Agency, MTN, the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Water Affairs and Sizwe IT.

It demonstrates clearly how vibrant public and private sector collaboration can make a big difference in people’s lives.

Kulula and Tsogo Sun fly the learners around the country and put them up free of charge.

Sweet has energetically driven Step Up 2 a Start Up for three years. Watching him at the launch you can see how important it is to him; how he engages with everyone; how he refuses to take personal credit but instead constantly acknowledges the input of others.

He is a fine example of how great leaders are able to collaborate around a compelling proposition, to roll up their sleeves and get the hard work done with honesty, humility and total commitment.

I tweeted during the event how great it was to be there and how successful collaborations offer hope for SA. DJ Sbu retweeted it to his 573,000 followers. He is an entrepreneur and the chairman of Leadership2020, which is all about empowering, motivating and influencing young people to become successful and prosperous.

A young listener called in to Late Night Talk with Aubrey Masango on 702 later that night and spoke about Kiyosaki. It confirmed once again that young people are hungry to understand finance and to start new businesses. They want to be contributors to society and to help improve it.

Where better to get them going than at high school with brilliant initiatives such as Step Up 2 a Start Up, which should be made accessible to more communities.

Perhaps mobile cinemas could reach rural communities, which so pressingly need to be included in youth drives.

First published in Business Day on Wednesday, 10 August 2016.