Competition boosts access to jobs for youth

From left, Khan Chang, Reece Maritz and Cleo Polypas.

When it comes to employment, some of Cape Town’s youngsters are choosing to do it for themselves and by doing so opening businesses that will employ other young people.

Among the initiatives supporting these young entrepreneur’s is the City of Cape Town’s YouthStartCT2017competition, which was launched two months ago.

The competition required the 100 finalists, aged 18 to 35, to present either their existing businesses or business ideas both featuring job opportunities for young people.

The final pitch took place on Saturday June 10, and the top three entrepreneurs will be revealed on Thursday June 15 at the awards ceremony at Cape Town Civic Centre, to coincide with Youth Day, on Friday June 16 .

“Unemployment, poverty and inequality are some of the biggest challenges in South Africa, and young people, in particular, are bearing the brunt,” says the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith.

“Entrepreneurship has been identified as one of the ways to tackle it.

“So, we’re providing an opportunity to access resources and skills that will help young people to develop their business ideas and provide services and products to consumers, while at the same time growing the economy and aiding job creation efforts.”

According to a StatsSA report from 2016, the number of unemployed youth has increased, with youth between the ages of 20 and 29 making up the largest category of unemployed youth, among them graduates. The number of young people starting their businesses, however, has also increased since last year.

One of those taking his future into his own hands is 23-year-old Raymond Mpumelelo Mntumni, from Mfuleni, who founded Kasi Authentic Wear (KAW), a local streetwear clothing line, four years ago.

He says he doesn’t see the need to work for someone when he can be his own boss.

Mr Mntumni had a love for fashion at a young age but says he never thought he’d be making clothes for other people.

The aim of his fashion business is to give people a sense of pride that anyone can rock something that is made in the township.

“My family is not fortunate, so I had to save up the pocket money they gave me to start up my business. I started small with T-shirts and grew into different products with the money I made from the T-shirts,” he says.

“Starting your own business is not child’s play. I was still at school when I started KAW, and I struggled a lot with juggling my school work and people putting in orders for the clothes… having to come up with new designs and knowing my target audience,” he says

He feels proud when he sees people wearing his clothes.

And while he currently only employs one person, who does the sewing, “before the end of the year, I plan to have a pop-up store, so I can hire two to five more people,” he says.

“We, as small businesses, can make a difference by employing at least five people in our community to decrease unemployment in our country.

“Most young people don’t do research on the courses they study (to find out) how relevant it is or what the job opportunities are and they end up sitting at home with a degree.

“We can change that buy starting our own business and employing other people,” he says.

Khan Chang, 35, from Table View, started his small coffee shop, Uncle Bear, in Long Street, last year, after having worked for four years at Origin Coffee.

“I’ve always had a passion for coffee and being in the family business for years made it easier for me to start my own,” says Mr Chang.

“After I finished studying interior architecture design at Cape peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), in 2008, I struggled to get a job for two years. It was really hard for me. Then last year, I got a loan from a friend to start my business,” he says.

Mr Chang’s journey has been a rollercoaster, with him having to juggle cash flow problems and sustaining his business.

He says he now has a better understanding of the coffee industry and knows it’s not just a passion but a business and investment.

Mr Chang has one full-time employee and two part-time employees.

Asked what government could do to support entrepreneurs, Mr Chang suggests they subsidise some wages to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs and to enable them to create job opportunities for others.

Twenty-eight-year-old Lusanda Worsley, from Gardens, started her advertising agency, Empire, three years ago at the age of 25, with her savings and the salary from her last job.

Before all this, Ms Worsley was working three jobs to pay for her studies, which she ended up quitting and went to do an internship in an advertising company at 20 years old.

“The reason I started Empire was to give a platform for young African creatives and for entrepreneurs to build an empire of their own.

“It was then that I decided to transform Empire from just an experiential agency to an innovations agency,” says Ms Worsley.

Like many other young people, Ms Worsley had struggled to find a job and she feels the reason was that, while she had experience, she hadn’t completed her studies.

According to Ms Worsley, there are many challenges that people don’t tell you about – or that you can only learn through experience – when you start a business.

“I struggled to get funding for my business, breaking through the cluster of well-known and dominating agencies and finding clients that allowed me to pitch and execute the work.

“I am still trying to overcome these challenges and taking it one step at a time, being as creative as possible,” she says.

“I always like to tell people that I have learnt so much within the first year of running my own agency that it felt like I lived, experienced and worked a total of three years,” she says.