The One Economy Foundation hosted a Covid-19 Survival Kit for Youth Entrepreneurs to discuss pressing challenges they are facing during the pandemic, as well as to brainstorm practical and actionable ways to mitigate the negative impact on their businesses and mental health.
CEO Designate Sem Mandela Uutoni said this is the first part of the forum and the second setting, slated for 8 August 2020, will highlight the innovation aspect of businesses and zoom in on the changing business landscape, as well as how youth entrepreneurs can be innovative to remain competitive.
He said the critical outcome from the forum was to build the resilience of entrepreneurs, a prerequisite in building strong businesses. Therefore, the wellness of entrepreneurs beyond the balance sheet is a priority to ensure the longevity of a business and avoid burn-out.
Verona du Preez, operations manager at Bel-Esprit Clinic, stated that mental health issues have no boundaries. “They do not discriminate – they affect people of all ages, races, social and economic backgrounds – and standards. Do not isolate yourself; remain connected to entrepreneurs who can relate,” said du Preez.
The forum also addressed the issues that contribute to mental strain, specifically debt and limited understanding of financial management. This may force entrepreneurs to seek additional financial resources to keep their businesses afloat.
Young entrepreneur and owner of Gweri Socks Pinias Shikulo, also known as Zuluboy, told Youth Corner that the forum helped him, as speakers focused on many issues young business owners are going through but have no idea how to navigate.
“Being financially disciplined is crucial – and they spoke about that at length, especially the part where one inclines to take debts, which later on tend to have mental health implications,” he said.
Shikulo further stated he was enlightened on how young entrepreneurs can invest in businesses and help society in the same vein. “We were told that sometimes, businesses are not solving problems in society and we need to be problem solvers and give back to the communities,” he said.
He also mentioned that for businesses to thrive, especially during Covid-19, there is a dire need for business owners to take care of themselves, which includes not abusing alcohol.
A key result is that entrepreneurs have to pivot both their business and value proposition to respond to the new reality.
Financial advisor and consultant Afra Schimming-Chase emphasised that debt is both an obligation and a responsibility – one that is sometimes necessary.
“Assess your business models, be strategic about your debt, understand why you undertook that specific venture and decide whether acquiring debt to finance your business would be essential,” encouraged Schimming-Chase.
The forum reinforced the importance of holistic response to the needs of youth entrepreneurs and critical opportunities they can leverage to future proof their business and accelerate their growth.
Technology is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to address emerging mental health challenges in an innovative, responsive and timely manner. The Youth Forum explored the intersections of mental health and technology by incorporating numerous tech-enabled simulations. These engagements allowed entrepreneurs to interact with apps and group games centred on mental health, its effects and tech-enabled coping mechanisms. The interactive session was achieved through a smart partnership between the Collaborative and Innovation Tech Hub (NUST) and the One Economy Foundation.