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Student entrepreneurs from the innobiz DUT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation dominated the spotlight at the recent Business Breakfast, where the Centre celebrated their remarkable milestones and entrepreneurial achievements.

More than a hundred student entrepreneurs, current and alumni, nurtured by the Centre, descended upon the Riverside Hotel in Durban North where a memorable event was delivered by the Centre to honour and celebrate their achievements and entrepreneurial efforts in an awards and graduation ceremony that took place on Friday, 31 May 2024.

The day was dedicated to honouring innovation and entrepreneurship where the spotlight was shone brightly on the innovative spirit and entrepreneurial drive that defines innobiz DUT. The occasion was to acknowledge the groundbreaking ventures and achievements of the Centre’s student entrepreneurs in an awards ceremony seeking to celebrate innobiz DUT’s student entrepreneurs and their outstanding accomplishments.

The event also saw some of the student entrepreneurs graduate in a graduation ceremony that marked the successful completion of the incubation programme as the Centre celebrated the student entrepreneurs’ readiness to take their ventures to new heights.

To kick off the day’s proceedings, the graduates, DUT executive members, innobiz Centre management represented by Centre Manager Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo, representatives of the board of directors led by innobiz Board Director, Professor Fulufhelo Netswera, and other distinguished guests made a grand entrance in their graduation gowns to a vociferous standing ovation from the audience. Following the grand entrance, Ms Ngcobo delivered a warm welcome speech to everyone in attendance, with particular mention for the Centre’s resilient and inspiring entrepreneurs.

Ms Ngcobo applauded the student entrepreneurs for their continued efforts in running their businesses despite the multitude of challenges faced by Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs).

“We honour those who have navigated the challenges and uncertainties of launching a business. Launching a business is not an easy thing, because that’s where you realise that you are on your own because venturing into business is one of the loneliest journeys you’ll ever take,” Ms Ngcobo explained.

In light of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Ms Ngcobo said that it was inspiring to see entrepreneurs restart their businesses in the face of hurdles thrown at them by the effects of the pandemic.

“Your journey is a testament of the power of innovation and the boundless potential that resides within each and everyone of you, even those that will be just getting a certificate they will be getting those because they would’ve finished a special project which will also advance you more as a business,” Ms Ngcobo added.

Dr Pinkie Ntola, from the DUT Department of Chemistry, delivered the main address on behalf of Professor Fulufhelo Nemavhola, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research Innovation and Engagement, who also serves as Chairperson of the innobiz DUT Board of Directors.

Dr Ntola said that the occasion was more than about a breakfast and graduation ceremony, but it was about strengthening the bonds within the DUT community and to align the strategic direction of the University.

“It is to celebrate the remarkable accomplishment of our student entrepreneurs who journeyed through the innobiz incubation programme. In fostering collaboration and innovation I would also like to mention that at DUT we believe in the power of collaboration because it is through working together that we can foster an environment where innovation actually thrives,” Dr Ntola said.

She went on to add that the event served as a platform to reinforce the relationship between the student entrepreneurs, the innobiz DUT leadership, faculty members, and the broader entrepreneurial support network.

Prof Netswera spoke on the significance of the university’s ENVISION2030 strategy which sought to have the DUT community having its people entrepreneurial, innovative and adaptive by the year 2030.

“We have graduates without jobs. This is not for a lack of work, it is a lack of innovation, and most of our graduates who are sitting idle do so because they have not developed an entrepreneurial conscience,” Prof Netswera opined.

He added that it was imperative to socialise people differently so that they do not look out to the world for work, but instead look to themselves to create work.

One of the highlights of the day was a gesture by the founder and CEO of the Wisolve Family Group Terry Mavundla, a DUT and innobiz DUT alumni, who donated a laptop given to him by the Centre seven years ago to a current student entrepreneur who is part of the Centre.

In the awards category there was the Male and Female Entrepreneurs of the Year, General Business of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Most Improved Business of the Year, Social Impact Business of the Year, Agriculture Business of the Year, Manufacturing Business of the Year, and the Tech Business of the Year.

Ms Siyasanda Xaba, owner of Impande Therapy which manufactures and sells herbal products, was crowned the Female Entrepreneur of the Year and expressed gratitude for being selected the winner.

“I am super excited, I feel that every woman that was in the room is deserving, but I guess it was just my turn. We all have worked hard and I’ve put in the effort, I started my business from the ground and now it’s at another level,” Xaba said.

Despite the challenges she faced, including starting a business while the world was gripped by COVID-19, Xaba said that the guidance from innobiz DUT through its thorough incubation programme had helped her stay the course.

“I am grateful that I was introduced to innobiz and I got to learn a lot and got access to funding for my product testing,” Ms Xaba said.

Ms Nonkanyiso Msomi, founder and director of Nonkanyiso Funeral Services, who took home the General Business of the Year gong, also lauded the impact that innobiz DUT had made on her entrepreneurial journey.

“I think innobiz has been the best part of it because when I got to innobiz I could not pitch my business idea and I learnt that and I eventually got funding from innobiz that helped my further grow further as I had already started the business before joining innobiz,” Ms Msomi said.

The awards categories and winners were as listed:

Male Entrepreneur of the Year:
Cebo Mbatha (Afripact Civils Pty Ltd)

Female Entrepreneur of the Year:
Siyasanda Xaba (Impande Therapy Pty Ltd)

General Business of the Year:
Nonkanyiso Msomi (Nonkanyiso Funeral Services)

Innovation of the Year:
Wandile Sihiya (Pipe Boyz Pty Ltd)

Most Improved Business of the Year:
Sibongakonke Mpungose (Uthingo Pty Ltd)

Social Impact Business of the Year:
Darlene Taylor (Cannie Product Pty Ltd)

Agriculture Business of the Year:
Sabelo Dladla (Eco Farming Pty Ltd)

Manufacturing Business of the Year:
Asanda Zondi (Siqalosisha Pty Ltd)

Tech Business of the Year:
Makhosana Zulu (Makho Tech Pty Ltd)

Pictured: Student entrepreneurs who graduated at the innobiz DUT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s graduation ceremony.

Photographer: Khonzinkosi Magcaba

Samkelo Mtshali

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