Homework, social media, and selfies, are some of the few things that come to mind when you think of high school learners. However, that is not the case with a select group of Grade 10 – 12 learners from schools across the country who showcased their community-driven business ideas at the annual JA South Africa Company of the Year Competition, sponsored by Citibank South Africa, which took place on 12 July 2018.
Taking home first prize, learners from McAuley House in Gauteng showcased their company – Meraki – that produced a unique magnifier for mobile devices. The product is both scalable for corporates to serve as an alternative to heavy power-intensive projectors and poised to help the elderly and community members struggling with small mobile device screens.
In addition to their trophies and a R5000 cash prize for their school, the team of four and a chaperone will receive flights to Ghana to represent South Africa and compete in the JA Africa Regional Company of the Year Competition taking place in December 2018.
Acknowledging the need to boost an entrepreneurial mindset, nurture skills development and to work toward reducing youth unemployment, the competition focuses on the introduction of enterprise development early on. It highlights business ideas conceptualised by learners participating in JA South Africa’s Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Academy Programmes, offered to learners in grades 10 – 12 in selected schools across the country.
Second place was awarded to Dynasty from Reahola Secondary School in the Free State, for its innovative idea to create coasters out of new and used match sticks. Further development of the concept led the team to include a heating element beneath in order to keep drinks warm while providing a power source for a USB connection that can be plugged into a laptop for charging purposes.
O’ My Garden! from Northlands Girls High in KwaZulu-Natal took third place for its succulent start-up idea, utilising repurposed glass jars and the strategic layering of rocks, sand and stone to allow for better irrigation and nutrients for plants during these drought-stricken times.
“Our wide range of experiential entrepreneurship programmes bridges the gap from idea to execution for these young entrepreneurs looking to start from a young age,” says Nelly Mofokeng, Managing Director of JA South Africa. “It’s essential for our youth to be introduced to the world of work and sustainable business at an early age, and the creative business ideas put forward at this year’s Company of the Year competition are testament to the success of our programmes.”
Teams representing each of the nine provinces pitched their business plans to a panel of judges comprising business owners and professionals from different sectors. The judges challenged the learners to take their ideas further, questioning elements of their plans and providing constructive feedback to the teams to support their development and understanding.
In preparation for the competition, the teams attended two days of mentorship workshops to refine their business ideas and improve their skills in problem solving, leadership and presentation.
The judges based their assessment on several criteria, including business idea clarity, ability to think critically, understanding of basic business principles and the sustainability and relevance of the product or service to social responsibility.
“JA Worldwide’s partnership with Citi spans over 30 years, with Citi funding a number of programmes aimed at empowering school learners and out-of-school youth,” says Mofokeng. This will be the fourth year that Citi has sponsored the JA South Africa Company of the Year event, and we are looking forward to a long and prosperous partnership in years to come.”
Peter Crawley, Citi Country Officer, attests to the commitment that JA South Africa and Citi share of supporting small and growing businesses that provide economic opportunities and job creation.
“Our work with Junior Achievement through our Pathways to Progress initiative addresses the issue of youth unemployment. The Company of the Year programme tackles this matter head-on by providing young people with the opportunities and training they need to start and run their own businesses successfully. We are proud to be in partnership with Junior Achievement on this initiative that is clearly changing the lives of young South Africans,” said Crawley.
The top nine finalists who attended the Company of the Year 2018 prize giving were:
- Meraki – McAuley House, Johannesburg, Gauteng
- Dynasty – Reahola Secondary School, Phuthaditjhaba, Free State
- O’ My Garden! – Northlands Girls High, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
- Tswarenang Property Limited – Sandtonview, Johannesburg, Gauteng
- A-Team Productions – Lentegeur High School, Cape Town, Western Cape
- Stay Shining Enterprise – Kgakoa Secondary, Makgodu, Limpopo
- Eleven Levels – Boresetse High, Barkly West, Northern Cape
- PAJ Industry – Sedibelo Secondary, Saulspoort, North West
- Sisonke Junior Achievers – Vulamazibuko High, East London, Eastern Cape
By Cue Sibiya