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SPROUTing hope

Enactus, 100 Young Mandelas of the Future, Sprout Africa, Masabata Sebusi, Shadei Lepholletse, Tumelo Zondi, and Farai Mzungu

Kovsie students' innovative agri-processing venture is paying off. Two years ago, a seed of resolve was planted in four young UFS women. They entered the Enactus National Competition for entrepreneurship projects �and came stone last.

But instead of giving up, they re-grouped, re-evaluated their priorities, and came up with an innovative agri-processing community-upliftment concept that has earned each of them a place on News24's list of 100 Young Mandelas of the Future.

We asked ourselves what the big businesses out there were looking for when it came to community development. At that stage, we focused on arts and crafts and recycling. But we realised the need was for projects providing solutions around food insecurity, water management, and sustainable development, explains Masabata Sebusi, final-year BCom Accounting student.

Masabata and her three partners, Shadei Lepholletse, Tumelo Zondi, and Farai Mzungu, are all studying in different fields. They pooled their diverse insights, knowledge, and perspectives. And Sprout Africa was born.

The company's aim is to give people in rural communities training in modern farming techniques, equipping them with basic business skills and helping them to find an outlet for their produce. As part of the process, the women approached potential business partners � from local supermarkets to big commercial companies � to negotiate on behalf of the farmers.

This time, they seem to have struck the right nerve. Having won various grants while the concept as still an Enactus project, they have since registered Sprout Africa as a company. Various stakeholders have already shown interest to partner with them.

Their main advice to fellow entrepreneurs: Think outside the box, find innovative ways to solve problems, learn from the communities you serve, and collaborate with people who have different skills from you.

Except for Farai, who graduated earlier this year, all of them are in their final year of study. Next year, they won't be job hunting like other new graduates. They'll simply be stepping full time into their innovative enterprise.

An enterprise that promises to keep on sprouting and growing. And hopefully produce seeds of inspiration for other students to pick up.

Source: University of the Free State

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