One major key factor for measuring the growth of the foundation is by measuring the growth of our alumni entrepreneurs – getting to know their successes and challenges as they climb the entrepreneurial ladder.
Sharing with us her story today is Pamela Mukwenha, a South African raised in Zimbabwe, who is currently based in South Africa.
Q: When did you receive the grant?
A: I received the grant in 2021. I actually applied in 2020 and was part of the revalidation group, so it was a two-year journey.
Q: What business are you into and how do you run your business?
A: My company is called ShareOpps. We are an online career consultancy based in South Africa that connects youths to opportunities in academia, employment and entrepreneurship.
We have a web application (www.shareopps.com) that serves the career needs of our users (students, scholars, young professionals and entrepreneurs) and customers (institutions, companies, recruiters, incubators etc).
Q: Where is your business located and would say that the location has been favorable to the business?
A: ShareOpps is based in South Africa, Pretoria but we work fully remote as a team. With the bulk of our existence having been during the advent of covid, our potential users and customers have all been very open to engaging and networking online. This has been favorable for our online growth and has decreased our need for a physical location.
Q: Do you have plans of having a physical location eventually?
A: Absolutely, once our revenue or investment funds match with that ambition. Our initial plan was to invest in a location but when covid hit, it not only forced us to invest in remote work but it also forced us to think critically about our venture priorities. We realized that investing in remote work services (JIRA services for our developers, ensuring each member has a reliable laptop, slack, teams, etc) and training far outweighed the short term benefits of having a physical location and saved us on costs as a bootstrapped business.
Q: Would you say that the grant has been able to help you achieve what you set out to achieve?
A: Yeah, that and more. Our main goals for the year were to grow our user and customer base through online marketing and to upgrade our online platform. It’s only been 3 months into the year and we have already been able to grow our traction and validate product-market fit and add API integrations. Above this, we have also been able to create an online secondary revenue stream (career consults) which we will be launching next month.
Q: What challenges have you faced in the course of your entrepreneurial career?
A: Access to finance for our solution has been the biggest challenge.
ShareOpps is a tech start-up that relies on a high volume of traction (often viewed as the potential revenue marker for tech investors) before real revenue can be generated. I have bootstrapped the business from my personal funds whilst I was in corporate but it was never enough. This is the type of business that needs one to source the best talent and to invest in platform development and maintenance.
Again, I’m also a new parent. Finding that balance between my role as a mother and my business took quite some intentional work. The mental, physical and emotional toll of having your baby and your business ‘baby’ is not something I was prepared for. Being surrounded by female entrepreneurs and peer mentors really helped me through this.
Come to think of it, I’m most proud of the general challenges I’ve triumphed over as a woman that we as women have “gotten so used to” such as being underestimated.
Q: Have you been faced with problems such as government’s unfavorable policies or the likes?
A: I wouldn’t use the word ‘unfavourable’ in my case. There have definitely been implemented policies that have made the entrepreneurial landscape more challenging or more difficult to navigate but I believe they are there to ensure the safety of our users.
Q: As regards as to the challenges you’re facing, have you been able to find ways to handle them, or some of them?
A: Absolutely. We have developed a system for applying for funds that we have also shared on the ShareOpps platform for our members. We have built the necessary capabilities within our team and our business to combat policy changes that affect tech businesses in South Africa. It’s also been beneficial to be part of an amazing TEF alumni support system of entrepreneurs to combat all the soft skills challenges that have plagued me as an entrepreneur.
Q: Would you say that you’ve been able to make positive impact in your society? If yes, how?
A: We have been able to start a free one-on-one service for our members to match them to their ideal opportunities while helping them develop their academic, professional and entrepreneurial profiles. This has also helped us to develop a robust pipeline of talent for our customers. It’s only been a month but we have started the process with over 100 members.
All these would not have been possible without the TEF grant.
~ Author: Chinenye Akandu