Hillbrow Entrepreneurship Initiative (HEI) is a non-profit organization that embraces the concept of entrepreneurship as a viable and sustainable channel for the betterment of communities and society as a whole. Through entrepreneurship one has the opportunity to not only better their situation, but also to effect change in the lives of others.
HEI is student driven organisation that was established in July 2012 and seeks to identify, bolster and sustain social entrepreneurs in deprived communities such as Hillbrow, Braamfontein and in Johannesburg’s CBD. The homeless people from these areas were identified by visiting churches and shelters in the area that provide them with their basic day to day needs.
This is where HEI comes in. We look for disenfranchised peoples who have entrepreneurial desires, experience and ideas that we can help to shape. We recruit these homeless individuals, provide funding, training and coaching over a six month period. The funding and training they receive assist the selected beneficiaries to start up their proposed projects and to ultimately improve their lives. Along with this HEI looks at simultaneously empowering and training their student volunteers. They are allotted jobs and positions in the organization that enable them to practically engage with their respective fields of study, build an impressive network internally and externally, and finally they get invaluable work experience.
The process of selection starts by identifying potential candidates and encouraging them to apply via a basic business proposal, these are then graded by each of the 40 student HEI members. Once this process is done candidates are selected to go through to the next phase. In this session 120 applications were received and this was funneled down to 30 and then 15 which were hosted at HEI’s first event. This was on the 10th November 2012, these candidates were hosted at the Hub for a day long workshop. The workshop saw HEI members, potential beneficiaries and mentors interacting with one another in close proximity for the first time. It was a fruitful experience for all involved. By the end of the day six beneficiaries and their respective projects were selected.
The projects that the beneficiaries are looking to start up include recycling depots and services, a call centre college that empowers abused women and children, a welding training centre, clothes manufacturing and music and multimedia company. Each one of the beneficiaries will have a mentor to help them do what is necessary to make sure that their businesses are up and running by March 2013.Our mentors come from organisations such as the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship, Enterprise Development Essentials and Executive Coaches. Along with this they will receive funding from HEI’s funders, among which are the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) who have pledged their support to the organisation in kind and financially.
The HEI team is dedicated to making a change in the lives of the disenfranchised, as well as their own. We have come a long way in a short time, which makes us confidant in the fact that HEI will only getting bigger and better as time goes on.
Pheladi Sethusa (Press Liaison Officer at HEI).