Students attending today’s Standard Bank Youth Expo held at UJ’s Arts Centre, were shocked when a 20-year-old CEO told them that in a year many people waste a full month just watching series and TV Soapies instead of being innovative.
“We are talk-preneurs, these days we speak too much and do less,” said Gift Lubele who is considered one of the youngest entrepreneurs in South Africa. “I am the youngest entrepreneur and I employ people with degrees”.
Lubele is the CEO and Director of G N Lub, a recycling innovation company founded in 2015.
Lubele said that when he had just started a business in high school, he was called to the principal’s office to discuss his business. He was overwhelmed with excitement and optimism and he hoped the meeting would help him with the project but he was left disappointed.
“When the principal called me, I thought he would say ‘Gift come on stage to tell everyone about your business’”, the 20-year-old said. “I was so excited but he said, ‘Gift you are not a street vendor, you are a student so stop this.’”
“I was so frustrated and sad, I wanted to tell him that, ‘Yes I am not a street vendor but an entrepreneur’,” he added.
Ideas Versus Innovation
Standard Bank recently started an organisation called Feenix, which helps students get tuition money from crowd funding.
Many young people are reluctant to share their ideas because they think they fear ruthless corporates might steal their ideas and take credit for them. Standard Bank Incubator Head and interim CEO of Feenix, Jayshree Naidoo, disagrees with this notion.
“Ideas are just ideas, they are not innovations,” Naidoo said.
An Enriching Experience
The event had four sessions each accommodating 400 students. When the first session was over, many students were pleased with the Youth Empowerment Conference thus far. Many of them felt inspired to break the mould and do work that is meaningful and impactful.
“I am a person who is interested in starting a business. I came here to learn some things about business which [I don’t know about] and to get some motivation,” said Khutso Nkadimeng, an Engineering Science in Digital Arts student from Wits University.
Nkadimeng was impressed with Gift Lubele’s speech. “He probably has something that I can use to outmanoeuvre. I wanted to find out how I can reconcile my business spirit and my education,” Nkadimeng said.
Another student felt that the value of a degree on its own is questionable. “We usually say, ‘I want to study and as soon as I get a degree I will have credibility’, but the truth must be told. We see so many graduates graduating and probably they have the same mentality,” said Lungile Mahlinza, a Commercial Law student from the University of Pretoria (UP).
Getting business advice and practical information was what attracted many students to the event. “What really brought me here is to find out how to be an entrepreneur, not only about the thinking process. I learned that just studying and getting a degree is not enough, you have to have something to offer,” said Mochela Manapo, who is a Culinary Science student at UP.
Some of the exhibition tents that were set up near UJ’s fountain belonged to companies such as Vodacom, Uber and SAA. Students approached the tents to receive information about internships, bursaries, employment opportunities, and funding amongst other things.