From Business Day 16 January 2008
by Sibongakonke Shoba
GOVERNMENTS should dispose of red tape that prevents aspiring entrepreneurs from starting their own businesses, Virgin Group head Richard Branson said yesterday.
Branson was announcing the winners of last year's Soweto Entrepreneur business plan competition in central Johannesburg.
"Good governments should get around getting rid of red tape, especially in small businesses, to create more entrepreneurs," Branson said after handing over a cheque for R100000 to Starplex Gaming Zone, the winners of the competition.
The Branson School of Entrepreneurship and Virgin Mobile had invited entrepreneurs from Soweto to enter the competition by submitting their business plans. The business and its owners had to be based in Soweto to qualify. No fewer than 52 entries were received.
Branson said Gaming Zone's business plan would work anywhere and it would make a difference in the community by creating jobs. Gaming Zone founders Musa Maphongwane and Amos Mtsolongo started their digital entertainment business in Pimville last year.
"We obtained personal loans from banks. We then bought containers and PlayStation consoles and invited kids to play and charged them R1 to play for 10 minutes," said Maphongwane.
The two men now have seven containers, situated in Pimville, Rockville, Molapo and Meadowlands, with one in Thokoza in Ekurhuleni. They employ 15 people from these communities.
Maphongwane said Gaming Zone would now hire out PlayStation discs and movie DVDs.
Maphongwane, Mtsolongo and 10 other runners-up will undergo a mentorship programme at the Branson School of Entrepreneurship.
They will also receive free Nokia E90 cellphones and Virgin Mobile airtime to help them to run their businesses. Gaming Zone will also receive free legal assistance from Adams and Adams attorneys.
Branson said people who wanted to be entrepreneurs had to team up with the right people and come up with good ideas. "You need to try and attract finances for your plan," the "self-taught" entrepreneur said.
He said Gaming Zone would not only create jobs, but would "keep the kids off the streets".
Virgin Mobile CE Peter Boyd said the competition was inspired by the launch of the Virgin Mobile shop at the Maponya Mall in Soweto. "We wanted to create entrepreneurs in Soweto as a celebration of the opening of the new mall and the new store," he said.
Boyd said Virgin Mobile was looking at taking the competition to other parts of the country.