Two Bloemfontein business owners, Thipe Tseka and Dr Esta van Heerden, are among 25 South African “enviropreneurs” who have been chosen to participate in the Groundswell Accelerator Programme. Final selections have just been announced, following the inaugural workshop held at the Riversands
Incubation Hub in Johannesburg in May.
Groundswell is an interactive 18-month programme, supported by seed funding from J.P.Morgan. Focusing on small entrepreneurs working in the green economy, the programme builds entrepreneurial skills and cultivates sound business practices.
Since inception in 2007, participants in Fetola programmes typically grow by 50% per year, and have a longterm survival rate of close to 90%.
Catherine Wijnberg, chief executive officer, described the cohort as a group of sophisticated and savvy scientists, many of whom hold advanced degrees. “It’s exciting to engage with entrepreneurs of this calibre. They are promoting renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, offering environmental consulting and providing water resource services, as well as patenting new inventions,” Wijnberg said.
Van Heerden is an award-winning biochemist and National Research Foundation (NRF) rated scientist. Her company, iWater, is a small start-up that currently employs four people who use their scientific knowledge to interpret water and soil analyses. “Most environmental managers have difficulty in translating the meaning of their data, and putting a risk management plan and effective clean-up solutions in place,” Van Heerden said. “We help our clients to complete this value chain. We provide the expertise, including additional worldrenowned partners to support the industry to implement better solutions saving our natural resources for future generations.”
Tseka, who for many years worked as an IT professional, has branched out to form his company, Future Trust Investment. He is now a sub-contractor on a city project to replace water valves. He also supplies energy-saving and offgrid solutions to houses awaiting electrification. He described the personal transformation and strategic planning workshop as, “well organised and executed”.
Each business owner took home a “business plan on a page” to help to implement their respective goals. The next workshop covers costing and pricing, which a crucial fundamental for any small business. Van Heerden found the business plan helpful. She is looking forward to the pricing workshop. “Given this type of support, it might ultimately be possible to grow a biotech sector in South Africa that offers science graduates employment,” she said. Entrepreneurs wishing to apply for similar business development support are invited to visit Fetola’s website
at www.fetola.co.za/projects and register their interest at firstname.lastname@example.org.