By: Thandiwe Kubere

Keeping its pledge of capacitating and supporting Micro Small Medium Entrepreneurs (MSMEs), Limkokwing Enterprise Acceleration Platform (LEAP), as one of the five Enterprise Support Organizations (ESOs) awarded by Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion, updated on the progress and development of the enterprises under its guidance. The meeting was honored by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Business Development and Tourism, Hon. Mokhethi Shelile.

LEAP Manager Lisema Ramaili, informed that the journey of incubating ten enterprises has been an exciting one because the enterprises are creative and more in the tech-space. LEAP is incubating enterprises in Information Technology, multimedia, fashion and apparel, as well as travel and tourism.

Led by a team of expertise in different fields, the Platform assured to capacitate its first cohort with the necessary skills for running a successful business, such as good financial management and appropriate approaches to marketing in order to building their clientele. Moreover, entrepreneurship was said to be both psychologically and financially challenging, at times leaving one at the verge of giving up, Ramaili guaranteed that there is an in-house psychologist to ensure that everyone is in check mentally.

During this period, the enterprises have and will continue to go through skills and capacity building so as to elevate their businesses with the aid of LEAP. The team has a program manager who is responsible for coordinating projects, ensuring their smooth sail and follow-up program goals while maintaining a high level of detail for each project and ensure that enterprises are capacitated with the skills they need, thus reaching the ultimate objective.

There is also technical support in place as well as mentors who are experienced across different spheres and practice within businesses similar to the enterprises, who will assist in sharpening their knowledge on business so that when the period is over, entrepreneurs are able to stand independently and are well accustomed with running a business in a way which guarantees success and assures sustainability.  

Ramaili noted that a diagnostics assessment was conducted on the enterprises and they discovered a few things that were generally applied across all the enterprises and therefore that assisted in devising some measures for intervention.

“That was helpful because we realized that they all have brilliant ideas but did not know who their customers would be, so we took them through training of market research and also taught them how to develop their marketing plan and how to manage their finances as well. So we can now trust that they will be able to run businesses and manage their crafts well”, she said. The enterprises are also undergoing research training, records management, accounting, costing budgeting and more.

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) V ice Chancellor Tefo Macheli asserted this is one of the active steps in fostering job creation and capacitating strong-willed entrepreneurs. “This is creation of job creators and not job-seekers with the emphasis on creativity and innovation using technological interventions towards achieving that. This is not about us as the university per say, but as an ESO and an entrepreneurship platform” he said.

He declared it was of particular importance to mention that the setup was a deliberate one by the university to bring its offices and infrastructure into the business district to primarily give the incubated students and enterprises, to be strategically placed close to financiers and investors. The University has extended its arm to ensure it stimulates young entrepreneurs and SMEs.

He further noted that                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             the platform is pleased that although this is Limkokwing Enterprise Acceleration Platform, some of the enterprises are not founded by the University’s students. He declared this was especially important in the evolution of innovation and creativity, particularly for skills and knowledge sharing.

CAFI Project Manager Chaba Mokuku extended gratitude to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Business Development and Tourism, ESOs and LNDC for having taken their time to be part of this project which aims to better the lives of Basotho and curb unemployment. “You have been with us all the way, through the selection of the ESOs to the awarding, and you vowed ‘we will not stop here, we will continue to give you moral support’. We for decades, have been talking about private sector led economic growth so, LEAP has leaders who are willing to work and engage with the private sector to improve this economy. We are very privileged as well to work with these teams that are dynamic we are really impressed.

Deputy Programme Manager for the Entrepreneurship Hub and Seed Financing Facility Mamashiya Ntšepeng Tšita Tikiso expressed her excitement, emphasizing that the government of Lesotho decided to take a different step to show that it cares about job creation in the country, and appreciates what everyone is doing.

“I know that entrepreneurship is not easy, there are so many challenges that you meet out there but what is beautiful about the entrepreneurship journey that you are going through is the fact that the government of Lesotho is with you. There was a time when somebody had to think about everything, about all the solutions, but because of your hard work and dedication, LEAP managed to identify you, to single you out of everyone else who had applied”, she said.

She further encouraged entrepreneurs to not take it lightly that they were selected out of many applications, because they were not randomly picked however there was a belief that there is something they can do for the development of the country. “It starts with you believing in yourself and believing that you have a solution to a problem that is out there. Because of the government of Lesotho you have this support, not just financially, also by utilizing your resources and the coaches you are accountable to”, she said.

She urged them to adhere to the lessons they were taught. “The bottom-line as it is always said is that there is job creation and I hear that you are creating opportunities for others but before you do that, you need to solidify your skills first. We are excited that you are here because of your commitment so it’s a matter of saying lets work harder than we are doing right now because together we stand to gain change in this country”, she said.

Giving her testament, one of the entrepreneurs, Ts’episo Serabele asserted that prior to joining the incubation program, they only had a vision and passion for their work, but lacked the resources and financial means to register their business and pay for legal costs. “However, the incubation program has provided us with much-needed resources such as office space and access to mentors, all of which would otherwise have been beyond our reach. Additionally, the incubation program has helped us gain a better understanding of the business side of what we do, beyond just being driven by passion”, she said.

She noted that though being a new entrepreneur can continue to be challenging, the incubation program has provided the with mental health support to help navigate the stress of running a business. “We have also been able to employ ourselves and three other people on a temporary basis, with the goal of eventually becoming a sustainable and stable business that creates long-term employment opportunities. All in all, the incubation program has been a crucial factor in our growth and success thus far”, she concluded