Call for entries: FNB Youth Start-up Accelerator 2nd Cohort Programme

May 6, 2023

Entries for the second year of the FNB Youth Start-up Accelerator (YSA) Programme, in partnership with Fetola, are now open. The programme provides young, committed, first-time entrepreneurs mentorship, training, and support.

The YSA programme is a fresh, innovative one-year programme designed to help young aspiring entrepreneurs grow and develop their business ideas. Aimed at unemployed youth and aspiring entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35, the programme teaches 100 young innovators the skills needed to develop their business ideas and get their enterprises off the ground each year.

The pilot cohort was initiated in 2022 and saw participants learn foundational business skills, participate in a group mentorship process, and receive investment readiness support and a small start-up grant. In the programme’s second phase, 50 entrepreneurs were selected to engage with mentors and, in job shadowing, receive financial management, costing, marketing, and brand-building training and support, to build the viability of their business ideas.

One of the members of the pilot cohort, Cindy Mkhwanazi, who runs ChemKhowa, a business that makes cleaning products, describes YSA’s impact: “Being part of the programme has lifted my confidence. As a start-up I feared rejection. I couldn’t handle negative comments. Going out to make sales was a huge challenge for me: if consumers didn’t buy, I would be extremely discouraged. The YSA programme taught us how to deal with challenges and to not be too hard on ourselves. The workshops were a huge motivation. The programme has taught me a lot about entrepreneurship. I learnt how to scale my business to avoid failure and become more consistent in terms of production. I encourage everyone joining the programme this year to participate in all activities and workshops, and to be honest with yourself about your strengths and gaps in your knowledge.”

Youth Start-up Accelerator Programme
Heather Lowe, Head of SME Development at FNB

At the end of the first year, the number of revenue-generating second-phase businesses had more than doubled, from 20 to 44. Just as importantly, 93% of the cohort reported good or excellent self-confidence at the end compared to 74% at the start of the programme.

Mosima Phakane, another pilot cohort participant, who runs Mosima Handcrafts, which makes jewellery from recycled materials. Mosima says, “I joined the programme at a time when I was dealing with depression after being excluded from university. Making jewellery was my way of escaping the feeling of failure and disappointment, but I never thought it was an idea worth investing in. The YSA programme offered me the validation that I needed. Being part of the programme has contributed a lot to my mental health and has helped me revive the faith I had in my abilities. I have met a lot of future millionaires, young people who motivate and inspire me to keep working hard. The programme rewards people who are willing to invest their time and dedication. They will give you all the tools you need, but it is up to you how well you use them to grow your business. I would encourage future participants to connect with as many people as they can and build their networks.”

South Africa’s youth unemployment rate, counting jobseekers between 15 and 24 years old, rose to 61% in the last quarter of 2022, according to StatsSA. In a macroeconomic environment marked by slow growth (expected to be a meagre 0.9% in 2023), there is little leeway for established businesses to absorb large numbers of unemployed young people, which makes entrepreneurship initiatives critical drivers of youth employment.

As Heather Lowe , SME Development Head at FNB, explains: “In a persistently difficult macroeconomic environment, the most potentially impactful approach is to create an ecosystem that is supportive of young entrepreneurs. There is no shortage of talent or ideas among our youth. But South Africa still has a long way to go before we have an ecosystem that promotes entrepreneurship at a national scale. The YSA programme aims to streamline the pathway from idea to execution and support entrepreneurship as well as entrepreneurs. This programme addresses some of the biggest barriers facing young entrepreneurs: a lack of key business skills, access to mentors and the opportunity to test out their business ideas.”

Busisiwe Bebeza, Programme Manager at Fetola, says, “Youth unemployment is not just an economic crisis, it is a social and personal one. Persistent unemployment can be frustrating and demoralising. We want to demonstrate, through this programme, that finding a job is not the only way to achieve economic participation and success. Entrepreneurial activity is highest amongst people aged 25 to 35, indicating that this is a critical age group to target with interventions. We want to inspire our youth to dream of a better future, and to equip them with the skills that will help them build a better South Africa.”

Call for entries for the 2023 Youth Start-up Accelerator Programme

If you are a young, passionate, committed entrepreneur with a new business or simply a great idea for a business that you would like to take further, then the Youth Start-up Accelerator Programme might be for you.

If you:

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 35
  • Have a business that is at least 51% black-owned, younger than six months, and with an annual turnover not exceeding R1m, OR you are an individual with a unique idea for a business
  • Are passionate, resilient, and driven

Find out more or apply online by visiting Fetola’s website www.fetola.co.za/programmes/ysa, click on apply

Preference will be given to applicants living in townships, rural or peri-urban areas.

Applications opened on 2 May 2023 and close on 2 June 2023.

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