Seven JASA Alumni pitch to a panel at We Connect South Africa

JASA Alumni pitch their businesses to a panel of women at We Connect

On May 30, seven JASA alumni had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a judging panel of We Connect South Africa members, at their conference hosted at EY in Sandton. On June 1st the three entrepreneurs with the most promising businesses will be awarded cash prizes by We Connect.

This is a valuable opportunity for them to practice pitching their businesses in one minute and gain constructive feedback from established businesswomen. In addition, they are fortunate to be invited to attend this conference hosted for members of We Connect South Africa.

WEConnect International helps women-owned businesses succeed in global value chains. They do this by linking their members to multinational corporate buyers.


May programme updates

Here are some highlights from the month of May

Learners at Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School, who are participating in an Enterprise Programme supported by General Electric’s Londvolota Trust, have been working on creating tile cleaner, shoe polish and permanent marker cleaner as products for their team businesses.


Toyota visited KwaBhekiLanga Secondary School in Alexandra

Toyota employees met with JASA Digital Enterprise alumni at KwaBhekiLanga Secondary School. These learners completed the course last year, funded by Toyota. The company wanted to reconnect with the students a year later and to interview Programme Coordinator Bonga Khumalo and some of the student company CEOs about their experiences

Some of the learners who did the programme are running businesses on the side while others are too focused on completing Grade 12 to continue with their enterprises, for now . However, the entrepreneurial seed has been planted and many expressed interest in looking into entrepreneurship in the future.

Small beginnings can lead to great things, especially when it comes to saving!

Grade 5s at Chartwell Leadership School graduated after completing the five-session More than Money programme.

One of the learners commented that she thought the facilitator was good. One of the things she had learnt was that by saving it was possible to make enough money to start a little business and grow it from there.

Sponsored by HSBC, JASA is aiming to reach around 7000 primary school learners with this programme in 2018. JASA began a pilot earlier this year where all five sessions are taught in one day. The feedback from teachers trained to facilitate has been very positive since the material aligns well with the curriculum.

Students at Hlanganani Primary School in Khutsong, Carletonville, show their appreciation that JASA chose to come to their school. We’re glad too, thanks to the sponsor of the More than Money Programme in this school, HSBC.

Ntuthuko Shezi modernises the African tradition of holding wealth in livestock

JASA alumnus Ntuthuko Shezi reimagines shared value through an innovative farming investment platform

In the past few years, JASA alumnus Ntuthuko Shezi has been thinking deeply about how we store and share value. This caused him to examine the age-old African tradition of storing value in cows. In our modern era of urbanisation though, the stock market has become the platform for storing value. Yet many people feel intimidated by the complex mix of financial instruments on offer. This led Shezi to come up with an innovative concept – shaping an investment platform where people can invest in tangible assets by buying cows and investing in sustainable farms.

In this Ted Talk he explains the concept further. You can also find out more at

Shezi had to go through many experiences before he was ready to shape this company. He grew up in rural Ndwedwe in KwaZulu-Natal in a home without electricity. His mother was a teacher and ran a side business at the school selling sweets, fish and vetkoek, to singlehandedly support Shezi and his four siblings. This is where he received his first taste of entrepreneurship. His grandparents lived a traditional rural life, keeping cows for milk and growing fruit and vegetables.

In high school he continued his journey of learning about business through selling biscuits. There he had the opportunity to do a JASA programme in 1997 and his team company printed and sold T-shirts.

After graduating from the University of Cape Town, with an electro-mechanical engineering degree, he worked his way up to managerial level in a management consulting firm before taking the leap to start his own company, a panel-beating operation at the airport, to service clients while they travelled. He provided panel beating, spray painting and glass repairs and employed 16 people.

In 2005, Shezi was selected as a Clinton Fellow for using social entrepreneurship to achieve social change and then in 2014 he was one of 46 South Africans to be invited to participate in the first Young African Leadership.

 Shezi commented: “My Junior Achievement experience was half my lifetime ago yet I still draw on it to enforce my business decisions. We learned everything from the real nitty-gritty of business fundamentals to advice that put me ahead of my competitors by making me more industry savvy. From the beginning of the programme the facilitators pushed us to really understand the inner workings of what we wanted to achieve.  We found out where the raw materials were produced, their cost at source, and how that was marked up in their sale to us and truly understand every facet of our mini- company.


“This in turn helped me start my first business, designing and printing T-Shirts and running it profitably. I then drew on both these experiences in applying for bursaries to finance my studies in Electro-Mechanical Engineering. Junior Achievement gave me a great start. I am proud to be a JASA alumnus.”

Digital Enterprise Programme students visit the GE Innovation Centre

General Electric’s Londvolota Trust sponsors two Digital Enterprise Programmes, including a site visit to the GE Innovation Centre

Students at Ponelopele and Sandtonview high schools in Johannesburg, who are participating in General Electric (GE) sponsored Digital Enterprise Programmes, were fortunate to visit the GE Innovation Centre in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

Organised by Celiwe Zondo of GE, the students were taken through the process of design-centred innovation by consultant Kathy Berman. The student teams had a chance to present their ideas and gain constructive feedback that they can now apply as they repeat the design process to refine and evolve their ideas as needed.

The key learning the students took away  is that the process of refining your ideas is critical to success. It is only through repeating the process of testing your ideas and then making changes that you can come up with innovative sustainable solutions that stand the test of time.

For more information on a design-centred approach to innovation see this article, which goes through the steps of this method.

Design-thinking as an approach to shaping innovation

JASA programmes incorporate a design-thinking approach to innovation

In JASA programmes, the facilitators introduce learners to design thinking, a step-by-step approach to coming up with innovative solutions to problems. Students are encouraged to look around their environments and identify problems they want to tackle. Then the students work on innovations that will provide solutions, in the form of products or services.

But first… what is an innovation?

Well, it is a new idea, method or product.

  • It can improve an existing solution, such as cars becoming more efficient, or mobile phones having better cameras.


  • It can be new and disruptive.

Examples of disruptive innovations include:

  • Digital film technology completely overtook the traditional film industry
  • Airbnb has disrupted the traditional hotel model by linking host accommodation to potential guests. Since they don’t own hotels or employ staff this means far less risk for the company.

Sometimes, taking the initiative to apply an existing solution to solve a problem in your community can be innovative since you are using a method that wasn’t there before.

At age 14 William Kwamkamba built a windmill to power his family’s home. Even though windmills existed in the world, he found a cost-effective way of making one. You can hear his story here.

One South African innovator is Danielle Mallabone. When she was 17 years old, after seeing the film Titanic, she was inspired to create a thermal lifejacket. She even tested it herself by being immersed in 10° C water for an hour! Luckily the heat effect of her lifejacket worked. You can read about her story here.

So what is the process of design thinking and why is it effective to come up with solutions?

Design-centred innovation 

1. Recognise a need, challenge, opportunity or pain point

The first step is to look around you to see what needs there are in your community and identify a problem you want to address.

2. Understand your operating environment

Speak to those affected by the problem to help you generate products and services that people need and want.

3. Frame issue – Problem Statement

You need to keep questioning to scratch below the surface to understand the problem from different angles and to see what the real issues are.

4. Ideation

Once you have decided on a problem, consider many options of how to address it and write down all the ideas you and your team think of.  Handle your new ideas with care because they can be fragile until they are developed.

Listen to feedback. Perhaps you have a good idea but there is already a product on the market. Maybe your idea has a flaw that you hadn’t noticed. Useful feedback may mean that you have to rethink your idea. Most entrepreneurs go through this process of refining their ideas, over and over again. Those that succeed are the ones who didn’t give up!

4. Prototype and test

You can also make sketches of your ideas or basic prototypes using materials such as cardboard, glue, pens etc. Making a model in the early stages makes it easier to test your idea in the real world.

5. Iteration (repeat the process)

You may need to test your idea and then make changes and go through this process a few times. Often an initial idea will change into something different. Allow this to happen.

JASA facilitators have been hosting two-day workshops on design thinking for learners on some JASA programmes and the insights gained will be taken into consideration in the programmes review.

Avive Papier, a learner at Orion Secondary School in De Aar, said this method gave her a way to gain insight into how things could be improved. Students were encouraged to use anything around them to make prototypes and they found the process so exciting that they didn’t want to stop.

Design-based innovation is used at the SABS Design Institute. An industrial designer and mentor there, Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, explains this process here. Recently nine JASA Alumni and Junior Innovators Competition winners from the past years went through a year-long incubation programme, were they repeated the design innovation steps until they came up with refined ideas that they could prototype. You can read about their journey here.

Here are two examples of emerging companies in South Africa who have come up with innovative solutions to problems.

Empty Trips

Have you ever thought about what happens to the empty space on trucks doing return trips. Well nothing really… until recently. Empty Trips are launching an online trip exchange platform designed to match transport companies having space capacity with those who can make use of it, through an online auction system. This start-up won the Africa Chivas Regal Pitching Den Competition at the 2017 SA Innovation Summit. They represented South Africa at the 2018 Startup World Cup in San Francisco on May 11.


Spoon is another company addressing a local market. There are around 800 000 stokvels in South Africa and yet these informal savings groups, and the people who borrow from them, cannot gain access to the traditional banking industry. This is where Spoon steps in as an intermediary, by providing an online stokvel management system and providing 30-day loans to the stokvels to pool their money for the collective benefit of all members.

Anyone can follow the tried and tested design-centred approach to come up with a solution to a problem.