Mind your own business

What does it take to be a student entrepreneur? Duncan Fleming and Robyn McCormick ask some people who have gone down that road.

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You come to university full of ideas about living independently, eating what you want, when you want and going for a booze-up at the Rat whenever you damn well please. However, come the end of the month, you find your wallet desperately light. Don’t despair! There is a way to generate some extra cash and you don’t even need to move off campus. You just need to get yourself set up, and they will come to you.

Kevin Geyer from De Beers House has found his own method of doing exactly that. Geyer started a tuck shop in his room at the beginning of the third term selling biltong from his farm home. He realised that there was a demand for all sorts of snack foods and now has a regular flow of customers into his shop.

“It’s not an original idea. Others had tried and failed, but I just tried myself and it seems to be working,” said Geyer. He has about twenty customers every day, mainly people from his res and from Kimberly Hall who have seen his posters.According to Geyer, one of the most important things to remember when running a business is organisation, which has kept his grades from slipping. Geyer asked permission from his sub-wardens to start the tuck-shop and presented a business plan. However, this is just a way of making extra money to ultimately do something more adventurous.

On the other side of the hill, perhaps the most “totally awesome” student business ever created is Pirates Pizza. Having rammed into Rhodes night life like a galleon out of the fog, ever since their first day of business they have been selling the most attitude-topped taste experience in Grahamstown. But just as any crusty sailor worth his salt can spin a tale, so have the Pirates a story to knock back a bottle of rum to.

Pirates Pizza is not the owners’ first treasure map to lead to a brimming chest of gold. At last year’s Tri-Varsity, the proprietors found success running a fried chips stand. Earlier this year, they started cooking their pizzas in an oven in a bedroom of Cullen Bowles.
Yet another genius student-run business is 38, the party photo company which makes sure the next day everyone knows the hangover is worth it.

Starting out in 2004 as a Computer Science web-design project, 38 had only two managers and three photographers but now span cities across South Africa, rivalling other photo companies such as thunda.com.

While initially hosting a site isn’t difficult, getting local businesses to advertise on the site becomes a problem, as advertising is the only means a company such as this can generate income. Potential advertisers are always hesitant to jump in on a new project because of the high risk nature of student businesses.

After that, the site “creates its own momentum,” according to the managing director, Christo Crampton, as people are eager to see photos ofthemselves online.
The business will soon be adding in a feature for students to upload 38’s photos of a night out directly from 38.co.za to students’ facebook profiles, in response to popularity of this social networking site.

Finally, if you have an idea, make sure it’s something that is not only wanted, but rather needed by the customer. This is according to Matthew Slater who founded RhodeTrip in his third year at Rhodes University. The ones that aren’t a necessity may work but will eventually fizzle out in time.

“Don’t sit around and talk about ideas, get out there and do them!” Slater encourages. “No business is perfect and it takes many hours every day to keep things running smoothly. You will have great days and terrible days, but if you persevere through the tough times the good times will follow.” Slater also advises to spend your money on quality goods and services early on. All RhodeTrip cars are new and all the drivers are professionally trained by the AA. These types of investments may seem pricey, but they will carry you through in the long term.

Follow these examples and you may be on your way to a full wallet and the pride that comes from knowing you have made it. Maybe you can bribe your lecturers and get those firsts.

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3 Responses to Mind your own business

  1. Thasky says:

    Dear Editor:
    About your feature on activate paper which asked about the change in name of Grahamstown!
    That question were supposed to be asked to Us sudents and Residents of Grahamstown not to some other people who doesn’t give a damn about the City of Saints. I really believe in order for you to make a sustanaible journalism function you need to operate inclusive to the people at large.

    I really believe on that note you have just made a huge error mistake…

  2. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this site. I really hope to check out the same high-grade blog posts by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my very own website now 😉

  3. ITIL is certainly becoming more vital in today’s IT businesses around the world. I know that, in my experience, it does not constantly go 100 % to plan – however thats the explanation why Itil is just a structure I suspect.

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