Entrepreneurs can be the lifeblood of the SA economy, says Randall Jonas, director of the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) Business School. At a time when millions of people have lost their jobs because of Covid-19, he says SA has never been more in need of risk-takers with the ability to create employment.

True entrepreneurs are “guerrillas by nature”, he says. “When they see an opportunity, they go out and seize it”.

Two of the Port Elizabeth school’s own guerrillas – both MBA graduates – have done just that during the pandemic. Wesley Augustyn, who founded engineering company Black Sheep Industries in 2011 when he was 22, says his brother, who lives in Italy, forewarned him early this year of the chaos that Covid-19 would bring.

Having spoken to banks about cash-flow relief and other support issues before the pandemic broke, he partnered with a US institution to manufacture Covid face screens and other medical products. While other engineering firms withered during the harsh lockdown, Black Sheep kept going. As the economy reopened it recovered business not only from previous clients but also from health-care and medical companies it had serviced during the lockdown. It even took over a former competitor.

Randall Jonas. Picture: Supplied
Randall Jonas. Picture: Supplied

Augustyn, who failed matric twice and reckons he has opened and sold 10 businesses since leaving school, achieved his MBA in 2018. He says his workforce will grow 20% this year.

Former banker Ntando Kubheka, who lectures both at the NMU school and at the Tshwane School of Business & Society, is another entrepreneurial opportunist who has turned Covid to his advantage. Having disposed of his car-sharing business at the start of the pandemic, he is now into consumer goods, transport and logistics.

Kubheka, who describes the corporate world as “claustrophobic”, says: “There is no such thing as being too diversified. I don’t get married to businesses or to an idea. If the opportunity comes along at the right time and right price, I will sell.”

Jonas says both Augustyn and Kubheka typify the attributes an MBA should try to teach. “We teach that society is fluid and you have to be, too. Entrepreneurs have to be agile and make adjustments and anticipate change.”​

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