Youth Entrepreneurs Improving the Status-Quo

Discipline and drive are necessary traits for starting a business. Young businessowners Sibongile Mongadi of Uku’hamba Prosthetics and Orthotics, and Kurhula Baloyi of Sum1 Investments, inherited the entrepreneurial spirit from their parents, who they credit for nurturing their aspirations.

Golden Circle is a platform hosted by Motsepe Foundation for young, semi-established entrepreneurs who are searching for capital injections and looking to build national and international networks that will expand their impact and their capacity to do good.

Golden Circle Session Two, hosted on 29 July, saw four entrepreneurs present their business to judges Dr Solange Rosa, Mapule Ncanywa, Aloysius Jacobs and Gideon Greaves. Winners were chosen based on strict criteria including the business ability to address a social need and ensure financial sustainability.

One of the most successful investors in the world, Warren Buffet, began investing at age 11. Despite his youth at the time, he writes that he wished he had started earlier. This was the inspiration for Kurhula Baloyi, who was guided with buying her first stocks at the tender age of nine.

By the time she was enrolled in university she had become familiar with the investment market, building a share portfolio as a side hustle. Now 25-years-old, Baloyi established Sum1 Investments in 2020, initially pooling the savings of friends and family to start the short-term stokvel investment company that manages more than R500k – with a backlog waiting for onboarding.

ISum1 Investments had envisioned a client base of young professionals who were searching for an opportunity to enter the investment market. Instead, Baloyi was confronted with heightened interest from middle-age, low-income earners. Many of them had past negative experiences of pyramid schemes or faced barriers entering the traditional investment sector.

What Sum1 Investments enables is an opportunity for people to invest as little as R500pm for the short-term to achieve at least 15% returns (compared to traditional investment, which requires high initial minimums for medium- to long-term investments at high fees). For many of her clients, their only other option was to open savings accounts, where the interest earned is far lower.

A large part of managing people’s money is building trust, which Baloyi says takes most of her time. Her stokvel investment model builds trust by allowing people to invest their money as a group. Meeting her investors where they are, with what they have, Sum1 has limited presence on social media, email or virtual meeting rooms, preferring to prioritise physical interactions and WhatsApp communications. For the investors, ranging from domestic workers, teachers and some young professionals, their peace of mind is earned through regular feedback and sharing information about the investment process.

While the business model focuses on stokvels and pooling investment funds as a collective, Baloyi makes investment decisions by first understanding the financial goals of each individual. For some investors, their goal is to use their investments for paying school fees and for others it is more long-term to build wealth.

Baloyi explains that the narrative of South Africans being unwilling to save or invest their money is a misperception. Through her work she finds that individual investment levels are stifled due to language barriers and lack of understandable information to a low-income segment of the population.

To take cautious risks, Baloyi admits to first investing her own money to experiment with alternative assets. Her risks have since paid off, being recognized as a one of the top 6 Women in Tech by AlphaCode and winning the Most Promising Start-up award from UCT’s Graduate School of Business Solution Space.

Since learning about the limiting access of the traditional investment space, Baloyi says she’s more motivated to facilitate the hopes and dreams of her underserved investors than she is by the profit. Thinking ahead, she plans to capture the untapped potential of the South African market before expanding into the continent.

Much has already been written about the 3D-printing start-up Uku’hamba Prosthetics and Orthotics and its fearless founder Sibongile Mongadi. Born and raised in Soweto, Mongadi is adamant in her dream of growing a 3D printing manufacturing plant in the township despite frequent electricity shortages.

Already recognized by several organisations, including Lionesses of Africa and most recently the Pan African Women Economic Summit, Mongadi was struck by the idea to create 3D-printed prosthetics, braces and splints in 2018. After an encounter with the public health system, she learned how devasting living with a disability is for South Africans who are unable to afford prosthetics.

Waiting for more than 5-years for a prosthetic is a normal experience in South Africa, where prosthetics can cost up to R500 000. Initially, the additive manufacturing and engineering graduate had hopes to use 3D printing to solve the housing crisis. Instead, Mongadi switched to manufacturing something equally important and underserved.

Through traditional manufacturing processes, prosthetics require imported inputs and very specific skills. In this process, it can take between 52 hours to a week to create one prosthetic. With Mongadi’s model, this process is reduced by 80%, taking as short as seconds to 8-hours to manufacture. This also reduces the cost by 80% and the inputs required are not imported – including ingredients repurposed from corn plants and plastic bottles.

Uku’hamba Prosthetics and Orthotics is a sustainable manufacturer that aims to produce far more than the 120 prosthetics made available by the public sector every year. Mongadi explains that today, only 30% of the 3-million amputees have access to prosthetics – a figure she plans to increase to 70% by 2025.

Mongadi’s humble beginnings and her rise to impact player were encouraged by her parents. Waking up every day at 3h30 in the morning to help her mother prepare for her day as a vendor, her parents encouraged her to pursue her own business by offering her space in the backyard to setup her workshop.

Presenting her business model to panels of judges wasn’t always easy. Before gathering the resources to purchase her own 3D printer, Mongadi had pitched to several panels who weren’t convinced of her ability to disrupt the industry. Instead, she persevered, and used the failed attempts to grow her network and finally gain access to a small 3D printer for a prototype in 2019. With the prototype she became unstoppable, purchasing her own 3D printer in 2020 and planning to invest in her second before the end of 2022.

Do you have a strong business idea that will also help change the lives of women for the better?

Motsepe Foundation is now inviting 1-min video submissions from women entrepreneurs operating new or emerging businesses. Ideas need to be innovative, commercially sustainable and aimed at women and girls.

SUBMIT your business here:…/