'Entrepreneurship gives me a sense of autonomy'

08 September 2016 | Story by Newsroom
Nelsy Mtsweni, a first-year BSc geomatics student, aspires to serve people and the nation.
Nelsy Mtsweni, a first-year BSc geomatics student, aspires to serve people and the nation.

Mpumalanga-born Nelsy Mtsweni comes from humble beginnings, but the ambitious and budding entrepreneur has big plans for her future.

Nelsy Mtsweni and her twin sister, Nelly, are the last born of seven children in their family. They grew up in a small town in Mpumalanga called Siyabuswa.

She describes herself as an introvert, who's not necessarily shy.

“I speak when I have something to say,” she says.

Apart from her older sister, who was already at UCT, she was motivated to come to the university because of its reputation of producing a high number of world-ranked and A-rated researchers.

“I knew that I would get the best of education,” says Mtsweni.

Although Mtsweni enjoys creative writing, her interest in geography and the environment led her to study a BSc in geomatics.

“Last year in matric, my English teacher would often read my essays to the class when the scripts returned,” says Mtsweni. “But I am fascinated by the use of electronic equipment and computers and I also love maps. So I found a BSc in geomatics to be a perfect career choice.”

She received a bursary from the Department of Water and Sanitation, which made her dream of attending UCT a reality.

Grab every opportunity

As a first-year student who was new to the UCT environment, she decided to get involved in a few extramural activities. Her longing to hone her entrepreneurial and leadership skills pushed her to apply for the UCT Upstarts programme, a 12-week social innovation curriculum that students attend twice a week as passengers aboard a double-decker bus on upper campus.

“I was eager to explore my boundaries and expand my horizons. I wanted to challenge myself and learn new skills,” says Mtsweni.

“I saw it fit to take part in Upstarts because I knew that I would gain a lot of knowledge that is business wise, and in that way I can be of help to those around me who need to start a business,” she adds.

Mtsweni's passion for entrepreneurship comes from the desire to help people in need.

“It is about helping people satisfy their needs,” she says. “Through businesses, jobs are being created and that boosts the economy of our country and motivates people to think outside the box and come up with solutions to meet the needs of the country.”

Mtsweni advises aspiring entrepreneurs to be clear with their business idea from the start.

“They need to understand their customers and clearly tackle the problem they want to solve,” she explains. “Whatever it is that they have on their minds, they won't be able to execute it without the help of other people, so they need to partner up with people who have experience in what they are doing.”

The skills and tools she has been equipped with in the Upstarts programme will fully equip her to start her own business.

“I now know which necessary steps to take,” she explains.

There is power in unity

Mtsweni says the Upstarts programme has taught her teamwork.

“I have learnt first that no man is an island. Working together is vital and yet fun because you get to hear your member's ideas and views. Then, united as you are, you are able to come with a solution to whatever problem you have. We also learnt that sustainability and impact on any idea you have is crucial,” she says.

Mtsweni and her team mate, Prince Nwadeyi, have developed Lwazi, an online tutoring platform.

“We are offering tutorial services to students on courses that they are having difficulties with ... It is basically online live stream tutoring,” explains Mtsweni. “Students can ask questions during the tutoring service, upload their PDFs to the online platform and get their questions answered.”

Her short term goal is to learn something new every day and put it into practise.

“I believe in the power of unity. I stand by the motto: 'United we stand'. I am now fighting a winning battle of developing leadership skills.”

The UCT Upstarts Idea Auction will be the final leg of the 24-hour bus journey students have embarked on with the goal of “Re-educating Education”. The Idea Auction takes place on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 18:00 at the Labia Theatre.

Story Chido Mbambe. Photo Michael Hammond.

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