It's all business at UCT

01 December 2003
Think entrepreneurship and moolah-churning business enterprises, and it's unlikely that the first free association to spring to mind is that of a noble but lowly social worker.

But this year, honours students in the Department of Social Development - mainly social workers in training - got to polish their business know-how. This after HOD Professor Lionel Louw called on the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at the Graduate School of Business (GSB) to acquaint the students with some of the principles of entrepreneurship.

The aim of the course on economic social development was not so much to spark and sharpen students' business acumen, but rather to give them a sense of the trials and triumphs of small-business entrepreneurs, some who may end up seeking counselling from them.

"We wanted to give the students an understanding of what it means to operate a small business in an environment where there are no resources and little or no support," explained the CIE's Jonathan Marks, who ran the course.

To immerse students in the experience, Marks, after covering all the theoretical essentials, had them start their own businesses, staking each of them R50 in seed money (on the condition that he got a healthy chunk of the profits, if any were made).

Marks was also roped in to work with a second group of students from the main campus, this time on behalf of the UCT chapter of the Black Management Forum (BMF). Here again he was asked to teach students - hailing from a sweep of academic disciplines - about entrepreneurship.

In the Saturday morning classes, funded by Nedcor Foundation, Marks took about 35 students through various aspects of entrepreneurship, covering topics such as how to generate, market and finance business ideas. Former MBA students also lent a hand, mentoring the students through various business proposals.

The course concluded with a competition in which Nedcor awarded cash prizes to the students (they worked in groups) with the best business plans.

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