Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in South Africa
EESA is the most unique, amazing, frustrating, nerve wracking, and empowering experience in the world. The name truly says it all; Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in South Africa - but you don't know what that means until you've completed the program. You come in all excited and confident only to quickly realize that you have no idea what you're doing. But that's ok; you have an amazing group of professors to teach and guide you, to show you that you know more and can do more than you ever thought possible. You take these skills and share them with your clients, work with them to apply the concepts you've only ever read about into real implementable solutions for their businesses. You fight, you grow, and somewhere along the way you have a brilliant moment of empowerment. It's something that I cannot describe - it's like the moment you go from struggling to hold your breath under water to breaking the surface and breathing fresh air for the first time. It's the moment that you realize that you can do anything. YOU can help these entrepreneurs and YOU can become an entrepreneur too. It's possible because nothing seems impossible after EESA.Chana Kreuter, University of Florida
What an experience it has been...there are no words. I was not prepared for the roller coaster that is EESA but I think it is the uncertainty and uncomfortable situations that one can't prepare for that have taught me the most. I can already see it playing out in so many areas of my life moving forward in terms of my career, my passions, my idea of what is possible for me and others, the depth of how much I know myself, and so very much more... My clients, team, teachers, my roommate, the friends I've made— for better or worse they have all taught me so much and in some way helped me grow as a person.Molly Devnani, University of Colorado
I have graduated from the Leeds Business School and have been reminiscing on my academic career. I have no doubt that the EESA program was the most important academic and personal experience I was a part of... The program helped me find purpose and meaning, and has reinforced what I want to do after my college career...I now understand the impact I had in South Africa, and EESA's impact on me, I truly appreciate everything the program offered me.Sean Nelsen, University of Colorado
So much of EESA tends to blur together, but seeing the smiles on our clients’ faces is something that will always stand out as a distinct moment in my life. To know that in just six short weeks, four young adults could make such an impact is simply astonishing. But I guess it goes to the point that truly anything is possible in this world… making the impossible, possible. We always read and see stories about how people have achieved the seemingly impossible, from Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, to Felix Baumgartner literally jumping from outer space to land on his own two feet on Earth. Many things seem impossible until they are done. The experience of actually achieving some small impossibility through EESA has given me confidence going forward to achieve so much more in life. I now have personal evidence that big dreams and hard work can change anything.Jarrod Schilling, University of Florida
EESA can be summarized in these simple words: You will Fail, Succeed and Rise all at the same time.Jose Fulgencio, Oklahoma State University
The EESA program has been hands down the most influential experience I have ever been a part of. Before the program I had huge dreams that I was scared to admit. Before EESA these dreams left me anxious, because I had no idea the path to making these dreams come true and I doubted myself all together. But, like a brick travelling at 90 miles per hour EESA hit me across the head and left me with something life changing. I no longer am anxious about these dreams because I know that the only thing standing in the way is myself. I have never started a business, I don't know how to manage a business and I sure don't know how to change the world, but none of that matters because I am going to find out. That is what the EESA program has brought me—The knowledge that if you want to achieve your dreams, you better dive in head first and create them.Bryan Tupper, University of Colorado
The EESA program was a very challenging, yet rewarding experience that I am thankful to have been a part of. I feel like I had a positive impact on the lives and businesses of my clients, and I can honestly say that my clients impacted my life as well. Over the course of six weeks, I was pressured to simplify everything I’ve learned in textbooks into a more practical context and was forced to work more closely with peers than I ever have before. With a more results-oriented focus, I gained confidence in my ability to adapt to different businesses, cultural and social settings. I definitely learned a lot about entrepreneurship and consulting, but more importantly, I developed a new perspective on and sensitivity toward the world around me. One of my team’s clients continues to email me updates about this family and business (with the email address we set up for him), and it is encouraging to know that we can remain in contact despite knowing each other for only six weeks and living thousands of miles apart.Alison Bussett, Santa Clara University
EESA program is crazy and super intense, but it is the most entrepreneurial 6 weeks I have ever experienced. I learned and I implement what I've learned, and I done all that with bunch of super good friends.George Hou, University of Florida
EESA changed my perspective of small business consulting as a student. In just six weeks, I had gleaned so much knowledge from my coordinators and the privilege of working with local business transformed that knowledge into a priceless experience! I developed certain relevant skills in the program such as critical analysis of businesses and determining what was needed to move a company a step forward. As a consultant, I discovered my strengths and other skills sets I needed to improve on. My biggest take away was the confidence in my ability to actually come up with real solutions for the problems detected. But most importantly the lives and the businesses affected by the changes my team and I implemented in Cape Town. To you fellow EESA consultants, I welcome you. Know that you too can make a difference in South Africa. Always remember Dr. Morris’s saying “Serve the client”, “Cash flow is King” (Consulting 101)Georgina Ankrah, Oral Roberts University
Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in South Africa provided me an opportunity to employ my skill set in a new and dynamic environment. Working with students from Texas A & M, University of Colorado, TCU and South African students from University of Western Cape from diverse educational backgrounds was an enriching learning experience. Experiential learning and coming up with deliverable that actually made a difference to the business of historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs in Cape Town, South Africa has by far been the best moments of my academic journey.Suhail Shaikh, Oklahoma State University
The EESA program gave me confidence to handle any challenges that are brought fourth in the future. The learning experience is not just limited to classroom topics but to life lessons as well.Landon Daft, Oklahoma State University
There is a ‘great time’ and there is an ‘Experience!’ A great time makes for lasting memories, fun, and nice pictures. An experience changes your life forever and enlightens you alongside steps of an incredible journey! Going to South Africa is a ‘great time’ and having the honor to be a part of EESA is an Experience! True empowerment comes with the change you bring back from your trip.Chris McNeil, Oklahoma State University
South Africa was the closest simulation to what life would be like as an entrepreneur, as any program could provide. In all of my studies as an EEE major, nothing, like EESA, has given me the confidence that I could achieve great things in my life. One thing to definitely quote myself about is in saying, ‘the EESA program is the best study abroad program. Why? Because we are not traveling around visiting places, we are thrown into a cultural environment that is often different and actively forced to adapt and understand that culture more thoroughly.’ In the end it has forged relationships that will be remembered for a lifetime.Brian T. McBride, Syracuse University
Not to repeat what my fellow EESA friends probably have mentioned a thousand times how much professional knowledge and experience the program has provided us, I would like to point out the tremendous effect on social knowledge and how much most of us had grown up during the six week in Cape Town. We, or at least I, clearly saw how blessed I had been to have access to the convenience and opportunities in my life so far, which I should not and would never again take for granted. The South African experience allowed me to see and believe that it is not important where you are geographically and socially, it is how you do to achieve the life you want that actually matters.Noel Nguyen, Oklahoma State University
With each passing day, I cherish the time I spent in the EESA program more and more. It truly gave me the opportunity to see and learn about the world in an entirely new way. More importantly, it also gave me the support structures to help facilitate that learning process. I can’t say enough about how much my business skills improved, but it was really the cultural, group and interpersonal interactions that made EESA a life-changing experience.Sterling Proffer, Syracuse University
The EESA program was one of the most valuable programs I have ever participated in. Through out the six-week program I was pushed to my limits, exposed to multiple cultures, worked with a diverse group of individuals, toured gorgeous landscapes and learned how to create value to histrionically disadvantaged businesses. Academically the program encompasses every aspect of businesses giving students a broad perspective of what all is included in making a businesses function. Being an Entrepreneurship and Finance major the program connected all of the previous classes I had taken to that point giving me an overall better understanding of business. Personally the program allowed me to see a perspective of life that previously I had never known existed. One South African entrepreneur my EESA group had the pleasure of working with woke up every morning at 4:00 am to start working until sunset. She did this so that her children could go to bed with a full belly and with hope of a better tomorrow. Seeing how hard this woman worked made me ashamed of every day that I do not live up to my potential. As an American college student I have the opportunity to create a vast amount of value for the world and it would be a crime against humanity to waste it. The EESA program inspired me to pursue excellence in everything I do. The program made me realize my weaknesses so that I can work on improving them and gave me confidence in the areas that I am proficient in. Along with the above benefits upon returning to the states when applying for summer internships I had a wealth of stories and sample work to show interviewers. This resulted in my selection of an extremely competitive position at one of the largest private businesses in the world. Being apart of the EESA program was a privilege and a blessing that I will forever be grateful for being a part of.Ben Wolff, Oklahoma State University
The EESA program was incredible. I learned so much about culture, business, struggle, success, teamwork, people, reality, and myself. It has inspired and moved me in such a significant way that I am strongly considering returning to Africa to work with an NPO in order to continue taking part in the development of this amazing continent. Thank you again for an experience of a lifetime.Callie Pote, University of Colorado
Lawren Sinnema, Syracuse University
As a graduate student interested in global development, I found the EESA program to be a challenging and extremely rewarding experience. The EESA program is different than a typical study abroad program. While the participants when on sightseeing excursions around Cape Town and received classroom instruction, we were primarily to work with clients and produce tangible improvements in their businesses. We were not there as students, but as consultants, and we are expected to add value for the clients.
My team worked with two clients, both previously disadvantaged women entrepreneurs. One client owned a hair salon in the small town of Pniel and the other client owned a health store in the Cape Town area. These clients were very talented and hard-working, but they lacked the resources and business skills to grow and sustain their business. Working with the clients, we were able to implement significant improvements in the business, including a simple bookkeeping system, improved store layout, pricing and inventory management systems and marketing materials.
On a personal level, the experience sparked a greater interest in small enterprise development and has made me consider pursuing a career in this field. I now see entrepreneurship in developing countries as a key means of poverty reduction and empowerment.
In my experience as a consultant for two small businesses in South Africa, I walked the road with my two clients and together created value in the form of empowerment, relationships, and knowledge.Tim Klein, Texas Christian University
Participating in the EESA summer 2007 program was an exceptional experience for me. As a current student studying International Development, the opportunity to take part in the consulting fieldwork is invaluable to my future career success. Not only did it allow me to merge theory and practice, but it also provided me the opportunity to experience firsthand how effective collaborative efforts are when dealing with economic issues of developing countries. Being able to work with entrepreneurs from historically disadvantaged backgrounds was especially gratifying because of their strong will to succeed and the sense that our work helped empower them to create a better life for themselves and a better society for their community. The EESA program, apart from being an academically enriching experience was also an opportunity for personal growth. The work was intense and I definitely felt the pressure to provide feasible, concrete solutions to the specific problems my clients faced. Not only was I entrusted to help my client and their business but the outcome of my proposed solutions would certainly affect my client’s family and the employees of the business and their families as well. Being put under such pressure taught me a lot about myself and how I handle pressure, what motivates me, and challenged my commitment and determination to succeed. I am tremendously grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in the EESA summer 2007 program and can only hope that other students will have the same opportunity.Bradley Dodds
Being given the opportunity to work side-by-side some of the most dedicated and inspiring entrepreneurs I've ever had the pleasure of meeting helped me cultivate a purer understanding of what social responsibility can and should mean. The days were long and there were times that I wanted to do nothing more than go home to a hot shower, but looking back on the work we accomplished and the practical experience we gained I can definitively say that EESA was one of the single greatest character building experiences of my life.Mike Noshay, Oklahoma State University
EESA was a great program and I learned so much from the experience. The relationships I built with my entrepreneurs was amazing and I still keep in touch with each of them to this day. The feelings associated with knowing we helped to literally save their lives is indescribable. Some of the challenges I faced centered around working with a different culture, whether that be the entrepreneurs or our South African student who was in our group. It takes time to develop trust and respect for one another but once you do, the experience is even more gratifying because you can help each other understand different ways of accomplishing things. I committed to the trip I hoped to really be able to pour what I knew into them, but it is amazing how much I was poured into as well. It is not one of those trips where you can coast along and enjoy the lovely scenery, although we did get several opportunities to travel. The trip in itself is a lot of work because the entrepreneurs need as much of our time as possible in the 6-week period. You have to act fast and you have to deliver. This is a trip for those who are truly selfless and want to make a difference in another's life.Niccole Grimaldi, Oklahoma State University
The way EESA impacted knowledge in me changed my life, my dream and the way I view life.Marc Assom, University of the Western Cape
The EESA program was an experience that can't be replicated again. Most study abroad trips are more like a vacation. My time in South Africa was a mix between helping out historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs and also experiencing the great country. This was a chance to flesh out what I had been learning in the classroom to actually help other businesses. I was able to learn even more about the culture, business wise and the general culture, that I would not have been if I was just traveling. As much as my team and I were able to help the entrepreneurs, they helped us just as much. I saw some of the hardest workers I have seen. These entrepreneurs are not just working to support themselves, but their extended families, and even some people in their communities. They are very selfless in this area. I would recommend this trip to anyone, though it was one of the hardest and busiest 6 weeks of my life. The benefit from it is so worth it.Jodie Navarre, Oklahoma State University
The EESA program is definitely a challenge, but one I would definitely do again. I feel like most college students talk about doing something, but EESA is your chance to actually do something. EESA isn’t just a tour around a new country with some learning thrown in on the side – it’s an experience that may ultimately define your college career. With that said, I can promise that there will be at least one point during the trip when you’ll wonder why you signed up. But, I can also promise that, after it’s all over, you won’t regret being a part of the EESA team. Looking back on my own EESA experience, I would tell future consultants to get fully involved in the experience. By that I mean, take on big projects, get deeply involved in your clients business, ask questions. My favorite part of EESA was meeting with our clients. I just generally liked spending time them! Mr. Fraser’s work ethic was admirable and he is probably one of the most grateful people I know. Our other client, Onesimo, had incredible energy and drive. She is one of those people who is completely self made and really has no limits on her potential for success.Shannon Jarmar
I traveled to Stellenbosch, Cape Town along with students of various educational backgrounds to be a part of the EESA Program in the summer of 2007. As the sole Social Worker I found the tasks challenging. My limited knowledge of business and entrepreneurship left me struggling at times with client interactions as well as bumping heads with my teammates. It seemed as if my Social Work skill set was underused. However, I then realized that Social Work skills came into play through leading by example. My teammates had various degrees but needed assistance with connecting and empathizing with our clients. It was challenging but by the end we had all learned a tremendous amount from each other. The experiences I underwent assisted me to attain a further confidence in myself, as well as the resiliency of others. As Social Workers, we are trained to always improvise, think on our feet and think outside of the box. I was challenged daily personally and professionally and attained a number of invaluable skills. I currently am a School Social Worker and use the knowledge and experiences gained from EESA in my daily work. I am confident that I will make tremendous changes in the students I work with and am certain that my experiences with the EESA program are to thank.Summer Sheridan
The experience that I had in South Africa with the EEE department was amazingly unique and would be hard for me to recreate. The success that my team and I had with our clients was so much more then we could have ever expected. Our clients that we served were able to gain an upper hand in their fields and to obtain a better position in their target markets. The faculty of the EEE department who hosted this program gave us the tools to accomplish great task and I am grateful for that. My clients were extremely grateful to our team and really understood the value of our services. The EESA program helped me to grow as a person and develop as a professional.Theresa M Moore
Thinking about the experience and the journey I had on EESA: EESA made me see life differently and that nothing is impossible. EESA has opened my mind and I am a different person now.Nandipha Kondlo, University of the Western Cape
From an EESA Client
Good day Professor---
Hoping that you are well. I thought I would keep you posted on my development after you seeing potential in me personally and my business. Using the skills EESA equipped me with I made it into the Western Cape Entrepreneurship Awards finalists ( Top 5 emerging business category ).
Also won a business pitching competition with Arcacia global an American based organisation that assisted Mind Trix Media with an interest free loan of R50 000.00 to grow the business. Once I bring it back the board monitors the growth and doubles their investment each time I bring the funds back until the company has reached its full potential. I am grateful for the opportunity and look forward to hearing from you regarding your input, updates or anything I can do to add value to in your endeavours in the U.S.
Managing Director, Mindtrix Media
EESA Client, 2013, 2014