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Ice-cream dream pays off for Uitenhage teenager

A head for business has landed a Uitenhage teenager an opportunity of a lifetime – a 10day, all-expenses-paid trip to explore the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the United States through visits to Google, Facebook, Apple and Tesla headquarters.
Riebeek College Girls High School grade 9 pupil Sara Gopal will spend the 2019 firstterm holiday touring some of the biggest companies in the US after she trumped most of her competitors at the annual Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge, placing second overall.
Sara outclassed more than 8,000 pupils from 600 schools participating in the six-week challenge.
The competition sees high school pupils completing weekly micro-challenges, ranging from creating business plans to developing apps and subsequently accumulating points as they submit work to the web browser and mobile app-based game.
Sara will accompany her podium-finish competitors on the trip.
The softly spoken 14-yearold found her voice during the early stages of the competition when she was chosen to pitch her business idea for homemade, uniquely flavoured icecream to a panel of investors in Cape Town.
As the winner of that leg of the competition, she received R10,000 to start the business.
Sara said placing in the top three overall was a complete surprise as she had never shown any prior entrepreneurial interest.
“I am very excited for the trip, especially considering I was in disbelief throughout the process as I continued to progress in the competition.
“It’s a six-week-long competition which is very demanding and needs to be done in addition to your normal schoolwork,” she said.
“So it was a lot of late nights and early mornings completing the challenges, but it was well worth it.
“I am going on a trip of a lifetime next year and starting my business, Ice Cream Dream, in December after exams.”
Anthony Selley, head of Gameplay for the challenge, said the mobile app-based game uses gamification to sustain and grow engagement and represents a unique style of digital-learning to develop entrepreneurial thinking among the youth.
“Thinking more innovatively and adopting an entrepreneurial mindset can be beneficial to learners entering any work environment, as well as to those wanting to start their own businesses one day,” Selley said.
“It’s for this reason that businesses need to continuously innovate to survive, and it is those who think like entrepreneurs who will be at the forefront of that innovation.”
Sara’s mother, Dr Shirin Vawda, said she was immensely proud of her daughter’s achievement.
Sara’s grit and perseverance were among her strongest qualities, Vawda said.
“It took a lot out of Sara to stick with the challenge because it requires so much work and that is probably why I am so proud.
“There were times she wanted to give up but she continued to persevere,” the proud mom said.
Riebeek College economic science management teacher Cathy du Plessis said Sara’s humility continued to be exemplary.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I could not be prouder of what she has achieved, but the humility and integrity with which she reacted to all the hours of sacrifice and hard work is what truly shines,” Du Plessis said.
The overall winner was grade 10 pupil Shriyaa Sooklal, from Maris Stella High School in Durban, and third was claimed by Saheel Rajnarain, from Crawford College La Lucia, also in Durban.

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