‘Winning the award had a really great impact on my business. I had been operating for about a year when I won, so my business was still in the early stages. We got a lot of recognition and many opportunities to spread the word about what we do as a company and what I had been able to achieve. I managed to do a number of interviews and met people who I’ve since partnered with on certain projects, so that was extremely valuable to me,’ she says.

Since winning the title of Rising Star in 2017, Anele Mkuzo has continued to focus on developing her business into a growing space of empowerment and skills development. African Entrepreneurship Initiative provides training and consultation to entrepreneurs who are in the ‘ideation phase – start-up growth and scale up’, she says, with a focus on youth in townships and peri-urban areas. The initiative provides training and education in various South African languages, placing a focus on inclusivity.

African Entrepreneurship Initiative has since collaborated with other SMMEs like Matoyana Business Solutions to further equip and educate entrepreneurs. ‘They perform support services for entrepreneurs such as consultation and content creation, among other things.’ she says.

The recognition from FAIRLADY and SANTAM did much to enhance confidence in her services, and improved momentum within the business, says Anele. ‘It was a great boost. Clients were able to see that even though we’re a start-up, that we are reputable and trustworthy. Also, it felt great being able to inspire others. These awards set a tone that other entrepreneurs and social enterprises are now aspiring to.’

She channeled the prize money right back into the business – to cover a few overheads and research into a new projects. The laptop that she won in the competition was particularly helpful, too, she says: she is the only full-time employee in her business, but makes regular use of freelance workers, so when she has part-time employees or contractors on board for a project, ‘we are able to provide them with a research tool – and that seems like a little thing, but it’s really amazing,’ says Anele.

Since her win in 2017, her greatest personal achievement has been going back to university to complete her master’s in Inclusive Innovation after receiving a scholarship from MTN. ‘I’ve been able to work with other social enterprises and meet new people in the same space. We are all looking to make some kind of impact in the work we do, so it’s been an amazing journey.’

The business continues to grow, despite facing hurdles over the past year. Anele says she’s seen many companies being forced to scale down because of a challenging economic climate, but she remains focused on learning and growing with her brand. ‘The most important thing I’ve learned is how crucial it is to partner with people and not see those in the same industry as competitors – but rather people we can work with. When they have something come up, they can use some of my expertise, and vice versa.

‘I think we’re going through a period of growth. We’ve moved up from 400 entrepreneurs in 2017 to about 700 that we’ve now mentored, coached and trained.’

Going forward, she hopes to gain access to more clients and provide entrepreneurship education by using different platforms and innovative methods. ‘I’m focusing on the development of a digital strategy now, so we can expand to the rest of the continent. Digital is the easiest way to bring content closer to people.’

http://aeinitiative.co.za/