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How many people do you know who’ve said, “I’m going to start my own company?”
Here at htxt.africa, every member of the team has heard somebody say that at one point or another. South Africans are inherently entrepreneurial. Being at the tip of the continent, we’re often denied the products or services of international companies. Sometimes we’re just fed up with existing products or services that are sub-par. If you want something done right, do it yourself, not so?
Except, it’s not that easy. Of those who’ve said “I’m starting my own company”, only few have gone on to do it. Even fewer more successfully. It’s a world for the brave, but not the foolhardy. There are many challenges in starting a business. Taxes, registrations, red tape, laws, compliance codes – the list goes on, and only the most switched-on people, who’ve prepared for the challenge (or are willing to improvise when faced with the unknown), will succeed.
Which is where the new Cape Town-based business training business Rocket Lab comes in. It’s a sort of business incubator-lite, designed to transfer essential skills for getting of the ground from the hive mind of its founders to yours for cash.
Now, there’s nothing unusual in starting a program for entrepreneurs, and some days it feels like you can’t spit in Joburg or Cape Town without soaking some start-up guru or another with phlegm. What is unusual about Rocket Labs is that it’s training program isn’t aimed exclusively at tech companies. What’s doubly unusual is it’s tools are available exclusively online. And what’s triply unusual is that it’s paid for through crowd-funding platform Thundafund.
That’s a whole big bunch of unusual. Consider our interest piqued.
The entirety of the Rocket Lab program is a digital handbook, and includes step-by-step walkthroughs, instructions, and recommendations to help a first-timer get on their feet. One of the biggest advantages to this is that it helps keep costs down. Skills workshops can run up to many thousands of rands; Rocket Lab’s online venture will cost below R1 000.
Aha, we hear you say. That’s all well and good, but I can get information about taxes, bankloans and payroll runs from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda). And the good government-funded folk there won’t charge me a penny for their time.
Rocket Lab naturally says that it offers more than these traditional routes to business for traditional businesses, and accordingly its program focusses heavily on things like digital marketing and creating and maintaining social media accounts – surprisingly vital tools for even the most old-fashioned of trades these days, as word of mouth rapidly becomes word of Tweet. It’s also a lot cheaper for a hairdresser, say, to market their wares through Facebook rather than paying for classified space in the local rag.
There’s also a section on building a WordPress site and the dark arts of SEO.
And as you’d expect with an online model, there’s also a forum where entrepreneurs can interact, socialise, and get advice from the whole Rocket Lab community. So you get more than just a few PDFs for your money.
Aiden Blundell, one of the founders, says, “We are not looking for any particular business ideas. They can be ideas that end up being brick and mortar based or fully online based.”
“We would prefer to have passionate individuals take part in the program, because through passion and determination greatness is born.”
Using crowdfunding to bring its digital entrepreneurship program to entrepreneurs means that it can do so at a cheaper cost. Like other crowdfunding ventures the Rocket Lab fund offers different tiers of funding.
50 entrepreneurs will be able to get the Rocket Lab program for a contribution of R750; or R950 when those spots are all taken. The other tiers offer multiple spots in the program – there’s even a reward level for a R250 000 contribution, where business can help kickstart the dreams of 250 entrepreneurs.
And if you’re feeling charitable rather than all entrepreneurial, you can even donate R375 to the Thundafund account to and help a financially-disadvantaged entrepreneur.
The minimum target for the fund is a modest R37 500 – enough for 50 entrepreneurs to test the waters and put the Rocker Lab program to the test. If it all works out, though, we look forward to seeing thousands of online-educated startups building businesses in South Africa, in the coming years
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Who is Rocket Lab?
Rocket Lab is run by Aidan Blundell and Charles Bryant, both being entrepreneurs themselves.
Charles has owned a number of businesses since the year 90s, including running franchises. He currently runs EcoPreneur, a company that offers some of what the Rocket Lab program will cover: mentorship for startups, and specialising in digital marketing.
It’s in one of Charles’ week-long seminars, which Aidan attended, that the two met. Using the knowledge he gained, Aidan’s since started his own online venture, a web design and WordPress development company called DigitalCactus.
With both having a passion for, and experience in, online environments, they hope to impart the necessary knowledge and skills for many other entrepreneurs to join them as successful South Africa business owners.