Turning a little idea into a big dream

CARL COLLISON
A week after winning the inaugural #YouthStartCT award, Ayanda Siboto and Renshia Manuel still find it difficult to believe their “little ideas” notched two of the top three spots.

Initiated and spearheaded by the City of Cape Town, the programme was aimed at kickstarting the businesses of young entrepreneurs who have viable business ideas.

Participants underwent training with the Seed Academy since mid-April and winners were announced at a ceremony held at the City Hall on Wednesday June 1.

“I was very surprised. I was just there to network and get my name out there. In fact, while they were making the announcement, I was sitting there busy sorting my business cards out,” laughs Ms Siboto.

Ms Manuel adds: “I expected all-male winners, to be honest, because all of them had their businesses set up already. I thought that, because they have this traction, they would win. I really did not expect my little idea to come this far.”

Their “little ideas” must have made some impression as it secured Ms Siboto first place and Ms Manuel third place – with a respective amount of R15 000 and R5 000 each, as well as support services valued at R55 000. The second place, from which he netted R10 000, went to Lyle Dolman, whose business, Arts Alternative, revolves around the creative arts and advertising.

Mr Dolman, a Manenberg resident, says: “Each area has its own distinct products, services, markets and opportunities. For example, one of our areas is hand-paint billboards. We secure long wall leases with commercial property owners, then sell those walls as advertising space to brands over rental periods of between three months and three years, during which period we receive rental payments each month from advertisers.”

He adds: “I’ve witnessed multiple art companies execute business models, some successfully and some not so much. But, to be frank, like Richard Branson says: ‘The best time to go into business is when it’s being run badly by someone else’.”

Ms Siboto came about her idea for her business, Zimele Beauty Network, with the aim of “regulating the need for services with an efficient database that can make referrals and provide efficient service at the clients’ convenience. “We compile a database, profile and review of all our self-taught professionals and beauty partners who would like to be registered on our network. We would further train and empower them on industry standards, news and events, growth and endorsement opportunities available to them.”

Says the Mitchell’s Plain resident: “The beauty industry in urban areas has always been a high potential area of growth for many. However, there is little co-ordination in terms of the availability of services and also the proximity of where services are available. The millions of people who live in urban areas always have to settle for what they can find, instead of having direct access to the best service or service providers that exist within their neighbourhoods.”

Of her business concept, Growthbox, Ms Manuel says: “We will be starting off with a plant nursery, growing seedling from seeds or propagation. We could sell the seedling in trays – which are easy to replant in gardens, corporate landscape or community urban greening initiatives. We sell to the public, government and corporate companies within the Western Cape. We will also train community members in gardens, landscaping and sustainable gardening. Plants will be grown into trees and also sold to landscaping companies, urban greening projects or contractors.

“We will cater to indoor and outdoor plant enthusiasts as well as nature conservationists who love planting with water-wise plants.”

On how the idea sprouted initially, Ms Manuel concedes that it is largely as a result of participating in the programme that she started thinking on a larger scale.

Says the Hanover Pak resident: “The initial idea was to simply have a nursery, but when I joined YouthStart, I was told to find my niche – to make my product offering really unique, particularly to my community. So I looked at what makes Hanover Park unique and what I found was this serious lack of space, which of course means that people can’t easily grow their own vegetables. It was then that I came up with Growthbox, which allows people to grow veggies despite having very limited space.”

“The idea,” she adds, “is to have companies buy these units in slightly larger quantities through their Corporate Social Investment programmes and we then distribute them. So, for example, if a company chooses a school in Langa, we would then train the parents of that school’s pupils how to grow their own veggies because not everyone knows how to garden. So, with the product, they get this training and knowledge.”

Singing the praises of the programme, Ms Siboto says: “You know, with the economy as it is right now, these kinds of programmes really offer the kind of knowledge we should all be sharing. If you look at how, in previous generations, more conventional jobs were seen as the answer, but those are not necessarily the careers that will be propelling us forward. We need people to bring solutions. I mean, our problems have evolved, so our solutions need to be new and innovative too.”

Ms Manuel adds: “Before this programme, I was unemployed for eight months and not receiving a grant for my four children. That was really, really tough. So when this opportunity came along, it was a real blessing. I’m working my butt off right now, but I enjoy doing it because this is really a legacy I am leaving behind for my children and my community.”