The Youth Entrepreneurship Exchange Program (YEEP) is an initiative that gives young start-up founders the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of entrepreneurship and investment experts. Open to residents of South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Kenya and Zambia, it aims to help young people achieve their dreams of starting and running a successful business.
At GoDaddy, we’re delighted to be supporting this programme by helping youths navigate online. We will be co-hosting a website workshop in collaboration with YEEP in Johannesburg on the 30th November to help empower young entrepreneurs with digital skills and tools to grow their businesses. The workshop will be held at the University of Johannesburg. We chatted to Alesimo Mwanga, Project Lead at YEEP about the inspiration for this venture and how going online is taking its success to new levels.
GoDaddy: Tell us about your business / side hustle…
A: YEEP Africa offers aspiring entrepreneurs and future leaders opportunities to solve social problems, exchange learning experiences, harness talent and learn about finance principles. Our three-day boot camp helps them develop their skills and knowledge through mentorship sessions, interactive activities, workshops and pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts in 48 hours. We want to help build a community of talent, future leaders and visionaries that pay it forward, create jobs and contribute to the future of our continent.
GoDaddy: What first got you interested in or excited about this line of work?
A: My passion for entrepreneurship, youth and collaboration in Africa. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to 20 countries and experienced a wide range of start-up ecosystems. I worked for a start-up and a global entrepreneurship network for five years and participated in amazing projects as part of a larger global community. I felt it was important to use knowledge and skills that I have developed to help to shape a better future for young Africans.
GoDaddy: What first steps did you take to launch the business?
A: I bootstrapped and saved money for a pilot project in 2018 with 45 participants from Swaziland and South Africa. I had to leave full time employment to really concentrate on pursing my passion and what I enjoyed doing most. I identified amazing partnerships in Kenya, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and have a really supportive team to support the project in 2019 and we are now focusing on getting things done.
GoDaddy: What sets you apart from other businesses in your market?
A: We provide a R50, 000 shared seed prize which is provided by the Wendy Luhabe Foundation. Finalists are provided with pre-seed funding support and are guided by mentors & founders who have had similar experiences to determine incurring costs of their idea or project, develop a winning business model & work on growing this idea into an operating business. We focus on encouraging critical thinking, collaboration and innovation. Most importantly, we aim to demonstrate the importance of early stage support in entrepreneurship in Africa.
GoDaddy: What were some specific obstacles you faced in your first year?
A: Fundraising has been really challenging during the very early stages of proving a concept or project for any start-up or initiative. Our goal is to make this programme accessible and create an inclusive environment and opportunity for young people from all backgrounds. Although the second year of hosting this bootcamp had many challenges, we do have to acknowledge the incredible sponsorship we received from the Wendy Luhabe Foundation and in-kind sponsorships from the United Nations Association of South Africa –UJ , Milpark Holiday Inn, GoDaddy, the African Development Bank and Unorthodox Media . We appreciate the support from all our partners, mentors, experts & entrepreneurs & judges that have devoted their time to make this initiative successful.
GoDaddy: What steps did you take to overcome them?
A: It’s important to take time to meditate, set your intentions, and be specific about your values, objectives, and goals. This helps you to assess the strengths and intentions of those that you bring into your team and partner with. It also requires a high level of emotional intelligence, self-awareness and leadership skill. Once you have a vision and a roadmap, navigation becomes much easier.
GoDaddy: Thinking about the business you’ve built, what makes you the proudest?
A: The ability to create social change, inclusivity and impact for young people. We hosted our first activation in South Africa on the 7th of August 2019 at Constitution Hill and the second activation in September in Kenya powered by MRX Media, NRG FM and the Mount Kenya University. I am most excited about hosting young Africans in November and being part of a change that I wish to see in the continent. I am extremely humbled by the wonderful support that we have received in the past few months but also the amazing relationships that we have gained too. I am mostly looking forward to 2020 and showcasing the impact this initiative has had on the top five finalists selected that win the R50,000 shared cash seed prize.
GoDaddy: What are some of the best things about working for yourself?
A: Flexibility, the ability to innovate, push boundaries and extend to yourself to your fullest potential.
GoDaddy: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since starting your business?
A: Time is the most precious resource and one thing you can’t get back once you have spent it. To execute at the top level, I’ve had to understand the full gravity of time. It’s important to prioritise your life and business in a way that lines up with what you value most. Apart from the hustle and grind and looking to the future, it’s just as important to allow yourself to live in the moment and take time to give back. You first need to understand what gives your life value and what your time is worth.
Another lesson is to show your team you trust them – which starts by trusting yourself – and let them develop into key players in your organisation. You should be aware of every aspect of your business. You need to be agile, explore new ideas and not be afraid of taking risks. Most of my lessons came from failures, setbacks, and defeats. Although painful, they forced me to master my thoughts and emotions.
GoDaddy: What advice would you give to people thinking about starting a small business?
A: I believe in ‘Positive Passion’. Be clear about your vision, reflect on what drives you and what you want from life, and understand why you may have lost your way. After identifying your authentic goals, you’ll experience more “flow” than resistance and be able to work more productively and creatively. You’ won’t acknowledge any barriers until your mission is accomplished.
Create an environment where everyone in your team can accomplish anything and everything they’ve ever wanted, too. Always look for ways to improve your business and create value in people’s lives. Spend time in solitude with your thoughts, observing what you think and feel about yourself. Keep revisiting what you want for your life.
Practise consistently, these steps will help you develop the personal and professional resilience to withstand any challenges. You’ll gain tremendous clarity. You’ll have the ability to block out all the distractions, doubts, and third-party opinions. You’ll have total control over how to react to challenging situations. Nothing can ever crush your spirit again.
GoDaddy: Where do you see your business in five years?
A: In five years’ time, we hope we have created a community that has had a sustainable impact on many young people’s lives and to have supported a few pre-commercial businesses that have grown into scalable products and services.
Products and tools
GoDaddy: Why did you decide to set up a website for your business?
A: I wanted to establish an online presence that supports all social media, marketing campaigns, customer service, client relationship building and brand recognition. And I was encouraged by someone who is a key player in the digital space to embrace the importance of having an online presence.
Can you tell us about what it was like using the GoDaddy Websites + Marketing?
A: GoDaddy’s Website + Marketing is an extremely easy-to-use platform. It even offers an element of creativity in order to customize your chosen template to uniquely suit one’s brand identity.