Teenage girls win national entrepreneurship competition

Erin Fredericks (14) and Morgan Pelser (15) walked away with the winning trophy in the national SAGE (Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship) competition that took place in Bloemfontein.

These two teenagers presented an innovative business plan to no less than eight judges from different industries and backgrounds from around the country.

According to SAGE CEO Dr Thabo Pitse the programme, an initiative of the California State University, has three main aims. Firstly they educate teenagers who participate in the programme about business.  “They follow a strict curriculum and exit with an NQF level 5 qualification,” says Pitse.  The programme also provides mentors who help teenagers to get their businesses off the ground and lastly, they provide a great networking platform in the form of regional and national competitions.

“Here the students get to network with like-minded individuals,” he says. “I think the ideas this year were much more innovative and creative than in the past. More than that, these learners are all true entrepreneurs who are solving real problems.”

Not for the faint-hearted

“I did have a hard time managing my stress levels,” says Erin Fredericks, a grade 9 pupil at Eunice Secondary School about the competition. “I was however truly amazed to see all the creative business ideas from the other teams.”

Erin recently became a business partner to Morgan Pelser from Morgan’s Candy Floss, but their friendship dates back to their pre-primary school days.

Morgan, a grade 9 learner at Bloemfontein Academy, started the business three years ago. She has been scouting for a partner since last year. “Everybody always seems interested until the real work starts and they have to work weekends or evenings,” she says. “Erin is very driven. She works hard and fast and is excellent under stress.” Similarly Erin feels that she can always count on Morgan to pull through. “She is also very hardworking and dedicated in everything that she aspires to do.”

Morgan started the business to earn an extra income as a young teen. She bought a machine and some material stock from a friend’s mother and negotiated a down-payment over six months. “After the first six months of ploughing everything back into the business, I started to make real pocket money!” she says.

Morgan has always worked alone, but since Erin has become a partner, it is much more fun. “It is wonderful to be able to talk to someone when making decisions, and I am not alone at markets and exhibitions anymore.”

According to Morgan, the greatest challenge of the competition was the Question and Answer sessions, “because you have to know your business inside out to avoid humiliation,” she says. And yes, they felt a little inadequate on many occasions during the competition, but they “learned a lot about the business world and profit-making,” believes Erin.

“It was wonderful to get to meet other teenagers from all over South Africa, though. We made great friends over the weekend and will definitely keep in touch.”

What is next?

Next up for these two teens is the SAGE world cup that is taking place in the Ukraine in August. And they are super excited to go! Morgan has been abroad only once on a scholarship to China.  “I have never been overseas so I am very excited as it will be my first time,” says Erin.

In the future of SAGE, Dr Pitse would like to see the curriculum presented in every school in South Africa.

“I would also like to see more of our business community take part so that we can create a culture of entrepreneurship from a very young age,” he says. “Support from the corporate sector and government would also be ideal to advance this kind of programme and make it accessible to more children.”

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