Learning Curve | Franchise owner agent of change

Members of the Young Entrepreneurs Port Elizabeth team are Kiara Zevenster, left, and Carmen Taljaardt
Members of the Young Entrepreneurs Port Elizabeth team are Kiara Zevenster, left, and Carmen Taljaardt

South Africa’s schooling system teaches pupils to be “good employees” as opposed to “good employers”, according to Young Entrepreneurs Port Elizabeth franchise owner, Ansulene Prinsloo.

After many years of mentoring students towards completing their Chartered Accountancy degrees, Prinsloo now focuses her energy on moulding school-age entrepreneurs through the national Young Entrepreneurs programme.

Prinsloo established the “edu-entrepreneurship” hub in Walmer as a base for similar programmes, which encourages youths to be creative innovators and future leaders.

Can you give me some background on yourself and how and when you started the business?

Having qualified as a Professional Accountant (SA) and obtaining an MBA, I’ve been a lecturer at Nelson Mandela University in the field of Accounting since 2002.

In 2015, when my son couldn’t find a job after graduating with a Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Stellenbosch, I realised that I need to equip my youngest son with skills that will enable him to be self-reliant and not depend on someone else or a company to provide him with a job in the future – my youngest was 12 at that time.

I realised that to obtain good marks at school, go to varsity and earn a degree is no longer a guarantee that our children will be employable going forward and be successful. Accordingly, I started the business and had my first intake of children into the YE programme in January 2017.

How was the business idea born?

After realising that although my son excelled in a subject such as Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) at school, and loved his entrepreneurship days/market days… he had no idea how to start a business, nor how profits are actually determined in real life.

Besides the fact that everything he learnt was theoretical without a practical component, he just couldn’t think like an entrepreneur. After much research, I came across the Young Entrepreneurs programme and contacted the Founder and CEO of Young Entrepreneurs (YE), Mr Danie Jacobs.

I immediately realised that this programme would enable me to equip my own son with entrepreneurial skills and help him to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, which is a life skill needed to be successful in the future.

What do you think makes your business unique?

The Young Entrepreneurs business is a change agent in the sense that we are going against the “old ways of doing things”.

We realise that we cannot raise our children the same way as has been done in the past.

We cannot think that the solution is that our children go to school, perform well, go to university and find a job Those days are over! We need to ensure that our children are equipped with the skills to make them self-reliant.

This mindset is not developed in the school structure as the schooling system teaches our children to be employees and not employers / business owners.

The programme is designed in such a way that the practical component of running a business is emphasised – you don’t learn how to swim by sitting in a classroom.

If someone wanted to take one key lesson from your business model, what would it be?

Repeat enrolments (from one semester to the next) by customers are essential in growing the business, therefore, it is essential to ensure that the participating children, but also their parents, see the valueadded by the programme.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground? Creating awareness of the need for a programme such as Young Entrepreneurs – and that this is not a “nice-to-have” for our children today, but an essential intervention to ensure that our children will be successful in the world created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately these skills are not developed in the classroom, although this is frequently thought to be the case.

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?

Our children have a full extramural programme at school and the majority of parents still do not see the importance of equipping their children with entrepreneurial skills.

The majority of parents and schools believe that what their children are taught in entrepreneurship days/market days and in EMS is sufficient.

Another challenge is that parents also think that the short-term participation in our programme is enough. An entrepreneurial mindset is only acquired over a time, and is not developed sufficiently through a holiday programme, once-off attendance or in a classroom.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about success?

Success is not a goal post or end result. Success today is gone tomorrow.

How do you measure or define success in your business?

When parents register their children for our programmes for more than one year – which demonstrates that they recognise the value-add of our programmes.

What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful? Ensuring that the children have lots of fun while learning essential life skills.

Ensuring that the parents who have children in the programme are aware of what happens on a week to week basis in the classroom/lessons, thereby enabling them to reinforce the learning.

What kind of advertising do you do?

These days I make use of social media and Facebook advertisements.

What are some of your highlights in running your business?

To actually see how the children in our programme are developing their own businesses.

Another big highlight was when we opened our own learning centre in 87 Main Road, Walmer with dedicated fully-equipped, technology-enabled classrooms.

How many people do you employ?

Currently I have two full time facilitators, and depending on how many corporate social investment (CSI) projects are being offered, more part time facilitators are appointed.

How do you motivate staff? By empowering them. I do not see them as employees of the business, they are part of the team working with me towards the same goal - the goal of equipping the children of the Bay with essential life skills to ensure a better tomorrow.

How did you acquire funding for the business?

I have self-funded the business, having undertaken extensive research to understand the market and obtaining an indepth understanding of the financial model.

Once you had funding, what was the first step in actually launching the business?

I contacted an advertising company to assist with the marketing campaign.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey so far?

In difficult times, always remember WHY you started the business.

What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?

Challenge: There are not enough parents who can afford to enrol their children in our programme – due to the pressures on the household disposal income of many families.

Moreover, national corporates often do not see PE as investable and rather fund children in the YE programmes in the Gauteng and Western Cape areas.

Advantage: PE is a relatively small city and it is not that difficult to become “known” in the market.

What do you think are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?

Resilience, self-motivation and openness to change.