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National Report Into the State of Entrepreneurship: Young South Africans Need Local Role Models and Mentors to Help Them Start Businesses

Sixty-five Percent Indicated an Interest in Setting up Their Own Business at Some Point but Feel Unprepared and Unsupported for Challenges of Self-employment

Johannesburg, South Africa (Jun. 13, 2011) – Johannesburg June 13, 2011—The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship today revealed its first national ‘Young Upstarts Report’, a research study into SA youth and their attitudes towards entrepreneurship. It reveals that 65 per cent are keen to start their own businesses and of those, 19 per cent have a business idea and have as yet done nothing with it.

The study was commissioned by Virgin Unite, the non profit foundation of the Virgin Group, which funds the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

The research was conducted by Instant Grass, a youth insight company, and covered in-depth conversations between Instant Grass and its network of over 100 ‘grasses’ and a face-to-face quantitative survey of more than 800 young people, 16-35 years of age in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

The ‘Young Upstarts Report” revealed that South African youth are keen to start their own businesses, but they lack relevant local role models and mentors to give them practical guidance on being their own boss.

The majority of respondents (52 percent) did not identify any entrepreneur role models, however, among the 48 percent who did, the top-10 (in terms of mentions) included:

  1. Bill Gates – American business magnate, philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder
  2. Richard Branson – British entrepreneur who founded the Virgin Group
  3. Patrice Motsepe – South African mining magnate
  4. Oprah Winfrey – American TV host and broadcaster
  5. Mzoli Ngcawuzele – Owner of Cape Town-based restaurant/butchery
  6. Donald Trump – New York-based real estate tycoon
  7. Tokyo Sexwale – Politician and former business person
  8. Richard Maponya – South African entrepreneur and property developer
  9. Raymond Ackerman – Founder of local supermarket chain Pick n Pay
  10. Maphindi’s – a Nyanga-based restaurant/butchery started by Patrick Nongalaza.

According to Qhakaza, a 24-year-old graphic designer from Johannesburg, “Seeing and hearing from guys just like you who also have bills and stresses, but manage to prevail in spite of them is very encouraging.  I think that’s the biggest contribution young entrepreneurs can make to others following in their footsteps.”

When asked directly if they would ever consider running their own business, the response from South African youth was varied:

  • Eight percent planned ‘to start a business within the next year’
  • 19 percent revealed that they ‘have a business idea, but have not yet done anything about it’.
  • 38 percent saying ‘perhaps when I’m older and more experienced’,
  • Almost one third (28 percent) said ‘never’ and three percent said ‘never again’, having tried to start a business and failed. 

After finance; skills development and mentorship are paramount to entrepreneurial success in the eyes of youth. And they are quite clear who should provide that support. 

“SA youth believe that the government should stick to funding the process and eliminating bureaucracy and corruption, whilst the private sector should focus on mentorship and skills,” says Dali Tembo, Senior Brand Strategist at Instant Grass. “In addition, government and the private sector need to be careful to strike a balance between encouraging entrepreneurship and clearly educating young people on the hardships of starting a business.”

“The Branson Centre can provide real support to young entrepreneurs through its development program of practical business skills workshops, mentorship and access to business networks. We serve young entrepreneurs who have taken the step of launching a business but need help growing it,” says Tracey Webster of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs who’d like to join the next Branson Centre development program are to apply at before 27 June 2011.


About the Young Upstarts Report

Completed in May 2011, the Young Upstart Report consists of both qualitative and quantitative research on the views of youth about entrepreneurship in South Africa.  The core of the insights are based on in-depth conversations – online and face-to-face – with over 100 young people from all walks of life located in the main metropolitan areas of South Africa, recruited by Instant Grass according to their observational skills and the ability to infiltrate different social circles. This was augmented with a face-to-face survey of 801 young people 16-35 years of age located in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The surveys were conducted in shopping malls, high streets, campuses and transport hubs and constituted a representative sample of metropolitan youth.

The detailed “Young Upstarts Report” and supporting vox pops can be found on and See Editor Notes for a summary of insights. 

About the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship

The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship was launched in 2006 as one of the global leadership initiatives of Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group. As a unique launch pad for bold and enterprising South Africans to create successful businesses, the Branson Centre supports aspiring entrepreneurs by offering practical business skills and access to mentors and business networks to enable growth. For more information, visit: 

About Virgin Unite

Virgin Unite is the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group that unites people to tackle tough social and environmental problems in an entrepreneurial way. Its aim is to help revolutionise the way businesses and the social sector work together – driving business as a force for good.  This is based on the belief that it is the only way to tackle the scale and urgency of the challenges facing the world today. Virgin Unite’s overheads are covered by Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, meaning that 100% of additional donations received go direct to the frontline where they are needed most. For more information and to join the movement, visit, @virginunite on Twitter and Virgin-Unite on Facebook.

About Instant Grass

Instant Grass is Africa’s leading Youth market specialist. It collaborates 24/7 with a network of the most connected, informed and influential young people, to create consumer-driven solutions for brands in the areas of Insight & Research, Creative Collaboration for new product development, and Word-of-Mouth. It operates in South Africa, East, West & North Africa, the Middle East and Russia. Its clients include Nokia, Unilever, Red Bull, Virgin, Johnson & Johnson & Safaricom.


For more information, please contact:

Andrew Cole                                                       Ian Calvert                            

Cell: 079 483 3208                                               Tel: 021 425 7355