Sungula Nkabinde

Adesh Naidoo, a KwaZulu-Natal entrepreneur, has won the Small Enterprise Development Agency’s (Seda’s) business plan competition, scooping up a laptop and R50 000 among his prizes.

His Clean Street concept, a cigarette and gum disposal bin with advertising space for municipalities, was shortlisted out of more than 5 500 entries, to beat 11 national finalists.

“I came up with this idea over two years while living abroad… developed it from an ashtray, to a bin, to an advert revenue-generating business… It will also generate jobs for people who I need to empty the bins,” said Naidoo.

“The challenge I face is getting municipalities to buy into (my concept). But I’ve had some promising interest from Maputo (in Mozambique).”

Seda Small Business Stars, which was launched in October last year, aimed at addressing the nation’s unemployment problem by encouraging people to think differently about their situations.

It invited people to submit business plans for new ideas as well as for their existing businesses, promising confidentiality and further assistance to develop the plan through Seda irrespective of the competition’s outcome.

“Entrepreneurship has tended to be seen as an application of knowledge and skills. But it is more about one’s mindset. People need to move from a passive interest (in their financial well-being) of waiting for (the) government to provide employment to actively engaging in searching for opportunities,” said Rob Stead, the chief executive of the SA Institute for Entrepreneurs.

The competition attracted entrants mostly among young people between the ages of 18 and 35 who, Stead says, showed a “mind-boggling” array of entrepreneurial flair in this country.

Dudley Jackson of Pennine Energy Innovation, one of the joint winners for Gauteng, developed a unique and “dignified” toilet that uses special technology to separate liquid and solid waste – without using water or electricity.

Martin Brown, who won the Seda Stars awards for most promising job-creating entrepreneur and most promising entrepreneur with a disability for his company Radical Holdings, is one of Africa’s leading manufacturers of custom-built powered wheelchairs.

“I broke my neck 15 years ago and needed a wheelchair. But I couldn’t find one that suited my needs. And when I realised that a lot of people had the same problem, I started designing,” said Brown, who now exports his indoor-outdoor electric wheelchairs to Namibia, Botswana, New Zealand, Brazil, the US and the UK.

For those who did not win anything in the competition, there is still hope to perfect their business plans and launch their own companies.

Mendu Luhabe, a senior manager at Seda, said although the entrants had been added to Seda’s database and would be contacted to offer help with their business development, people should take the initiative and approach their nearest Seda branch to register and have their business plans assessed.