Growing up in Alexandra township and seeing the kids around him doing drugs and getting involved in crime is what inspired Robert Mtshali to be different. From a young age he wanted to change how young people see and think about themselves.
Entrepreneurial from the start, Mtshali was already selling sweets at school at 12, and by the time he reached Grade 11 he had registered his first business. But without guidance, one failure followed another, and Robert knew that he needed help along his journey to business success.
Because of this, in 2014 Mtshali started BizKidzSA, a social business seeking to foster entrepreneurial skills in primary school children aged eight to 12 by teaching them to build and launch their own micro-enterprises through inspiration and education, and thereby create much-needed employment in their communities.
Mtshali believes entrepreneurship should be encouraged from an early age. He says kids under 12 have two options in life: “They can either be on the street and stealing in order to survive, or be educated and become entrepreneurs who contribute to their own financial independence and national wealth creation. We aim to spark kids’ entrepreneurial spirit and build business acumen, confidence and resilience, so they can choose entrepreneurship as their future career and use business as a force for good.”
The programmes run by BizKidzSA include Market Days, BizCamps, Workshop and BizPitch, and cover the broad spectrum of entrepreneurship, from how to brainstorm business ideas to mentoring and creating platforms for the kids to pitch their businesses to potential investors.
Within a year the BizKidzSA innovation was profiled by SABC1, SABC3, Alex FM, Brand SA, Alex News, Soweto TV and Dumisa TV, and made it to the top five in the Radio 702 Small Business Awards.
Mtshali’s motto is simple: do more. He believes in the positives of failure, and that it should be embraced and celebrated. It is through failure that life’s greatest lessons are learned. — Linda Doke