The Awethu Project, in partnership with Government’s Jobs Fund, is launching the #Awe250K campaign, a unique a life-changing opportunity to entrepreneurs who have ambition and talent to receive an equity investment from Awethu’s investment fund of up to R250 000.
Since its founding six years ago, Awethu has grown from a R60K startup into an institution with R160 million to invest in its vision. It is backed by individuals and institutions ranging from Archbishop Tutu to the South African Government and Discovery Holdings.
Thanks to funding from the Jobs Fund, Awethu will be offering 250 candidates a scholarship, each worth R45K, to enter Awethu’s entrepreneurship training academy. At the end of the 6-month training programme, during which entrepreneurs are required to be running a business after month one, the top 10% of graduates will be eligible to receive the equity investment.
We interviewed Awethu Project founder Yusuf Randera-Rees to find out about the #Awe250K campaign and the Awethu Project as a whole:
What is your business background?
After finishing my studies at Harvard (undergrad) and Oxford, (MSC in African Studies and MSC in Financial Economics), I started my career at Credit Suisse. After a year in New York, I moved across to the Zurich office. In 2009 I came back to South Africa to start the Awethu Project. Since then, Awethu has grown from a R60 000 startup into an institution with R160 million to invest in our vision.
How did the idea for Awethu Project come about?
I’ve always been passionate about using entrepreneurship as a vehicle to make South Africa more socially and economically fair. The subjects I studied at Oxford were the closest courses I could find that would equip me to come back and start Awethu. Whilst at Oxford, I entered a business plan competition and that was when the concept of the Awethu Project born.
How do you fund Awethu Project to power all these other SMEs and SMMEs?
In order to make a tangible impact on unemployment in SA by developing entrepreneurs, we have to be able raise funding at scale. As a result, it’s important for us to raise commercial funding for these ventures. Our goal is to raise a R1 billion commercial fund by the end of this year to further invest in our dream of using entrepreneurship to build the country we all want to live in. So far, sefa has invested R64M in Awethu to invest in entrepreneurs. We’ve also received grants of R90M from the Government’s Jobs Fund which has provided us with some runway to prove our model and provide us with the track record needed to raise commercial funding.
What is the selection criteria for the Incubator Programme?
To be selected for #Awe250K, the entrepreneurs need ambition, perseverance, a willingness to learn and they need to be solutions-oriented. We provide entrepreneurs with some training on how to test the viability of their business idea and how to put together a business plan. At the end of the process, we assess the business plan and we interview the entrepreneur. If we think the entrepreneur has what it takes, we offer them a spot in #Awe250K.
Are you specific to industries that South Africa has a skills shortage in (i.e. Accounting, Law, Medicine, Engineering, Management and Finance) or do you help everyone across the board?
We are industry agnostic. We need to work with a huge number of entrepreneurs in order to make the impact we need to have in SA. This is only possible if we are able to work in all industries. By being industry agnostic, it enables us to work with many more entrepreneurs than if we were focused on just a few.
If not have you considered focusing on these industries in particular?
If we want to liberate South Africa’s potential by investing in entrepreneurs, it is important that we maintain this approach.
What happens to candidates once they finish the Incubator Programme?
Our goal is that all entrepreneurs that graduate from the programme are in a position to warrant a R250k investment in their business after graduating. We focus on making sure the entrepreneurs are independent and in a position to continue growing their businesses without us by the time they graduate. They know how to put a business plan together and are in a good position to raise scale-up funding for their businesses (and many entrepreneurs have already done so). The best performers from this programme receive an equity investment from the Awethu Project. There are 2 options available to these entrepreneurs, should they choose to partner with us:
- We invest up R250k in the entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses. The support for these entrepreneurs is similar to that received in #Awe250K.
- We invest up to R2.5M to scale up these businesses. However, these businesses need to be more formalised and they receive more hands-on support from Awethu to ensure they grow.
What’s the long-term goal for the Incubator Programme and the Awethu Project as a whole?
There are 5 million non-formalized businesses in South Africa. If we can work with just 10% of them to grow their businesses enough to employ 10 employees, we’ll be able to create 5 million jobs in South Africa. Our aim is to use entrepreneurship to build the country we all want to live, a fair country in which every South African has the opportunity to realize their potential.
Tell us a bit more about the “Awethu R250K Campaign”
Ambitious entrepreneurs are out there and looking for funding upwards of R100K. However, the majority of them don’t have the track record to raise funding; don’t have the management expertise to manage a growing team; and don’t have experience in making important strategic decisions. #Awe250K gives theses ambitious entrepreneurs the opportunity to access a R250K investment to build their dream businesses that will change South Africa. But only after they’ve had the opportunity to prove themselves and gain the necessary skills that will enable them to be successful entrepreneurs.
Lastly why is the Awethu Business Incubator Programme important to nurturing future entrepreneurs?
#Awe250K enables us to work with entrepreneurs at scale in order to drive the change we need to see in this beautiful country of ours.
If you think you have the potential, ideas entrepreneurship skills to run a successful business then YOU should apply for the Awethu Project #Awe250K scholarship and stand the chance to receive an equity investment from Awethu’s investment fund of up to R250 000 for you business.
To apply visit http://goo.gl/FylN7F