Northern Cape entrepreneurs taste success through Small Business Academy Stellenbosch Business School Skip to main content
Two Northern Cape entrepreneurs forced to reinvent their businesses became top students in our Business School’s Small Business Academy.

Not even a global pandemic could stand in the way of two Northern Cape entrepreneurs who were forced to reinvent their businesses and have now emerged at the top of their class in the Small Business Academy run by Stellenbosch Business School.

Hairstylist Victoria Engelbrecht, 35, found her passion for skills development and empowerment in her profession after moving to stay with her family in Namaqualand when she was forced to close her Cape Town salon as a “non-essential service” under Covid-19 regulations in 2020.

Now, her Pinnacle Hair Salon and Barber Academy not only services a diverse clientele in Springbok and surrounding areas, but has five employees-in-training and has secured funding to provide training in barbering skills for three students and professional hairdressing qualifications for another five.

Fellow student Warren Louw’s plans to embark on an acting career were also dashed by Covid-19 but being stuck at home in Fonteintjie, outside Springbok, inspired the former policeman to create the character “Antie Katriena” and post videos on Facebook and TikTok of her commentaries on life and her wayward son Waarhen.

He gained a 70 000-strong Facebook following during lockdown and once gatherings were permitted again, the bookings swiftly followed and now “Antie Katriena” is Namaqualand’s favourite auntie to MC and perform at events and festivals across the region, travelling as far as Keetmanshoop in Namibia.

Engelbrecht and Louw were in the top 3 students of the Small Business Academy (SBA), an annual programme run by Stellenbosch Business School for the past 10 years to develop small business owners in low-income communities in the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape.

The nine-month programme incorporates training in key business areas and ongoing mentoring by alumni of Stellenbosch Business School, to equip entrepreneurs with the business knowledge and practical skills to grow sustainable, job-creating businesses.

More than 350 participants have graduated from the SBA to date, receiving an NQF Level 5 qualification from Stellenbosch University.

SBA head Dr Armand Bam said that the majority of start-up small businesses in South Africa fail in their first 12 to 24 months mainly because the entrepreneurs, while having the technical skills in their sector, lack the knowledge of how to plan, run and sustain a business.

“The SBA aims to fill that capacity gap and, unlike many other SME support programmes, we don’t hand over a certificate and walk away – we continue the involvement through mentoring, workshops and masterclasses, and that is key to the programme’s success.

“Our impact research has shown that the majority of participants have remained in their business, have grown profitability and grown employment,” he said.

Engelbrecht opened her business in Springbok in April 2022 and is now known across the Namaqualand region as “the Lady Barber” by her handle @ladybarber giving hair care and styling advice on social media and a regular slot on Radio NFM.

She is a former Western Cape hairdressing championship winner and represented South Africa at the World Hairdressing Championships in France in 2010, earning a silver medal.

Having her services declared “non-essential” at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic was “like being dumped on national television”, she said, and prompted a two-year sabbatical and introspection before she decided to take up her passion for hairdressing again, with a focus on skills development and empowering others to set up businesses in the field.

“My passion for teaching just grew stronger and my mission to develop professionally-trained hairstylists to international standards, able to offer professional personal care services to the market.

“I am offering knowledge and practical empowerment; something that fellow entrepreneurs within my industry have said they won’t do because what if that person becomes better and takes their business away.

“I say, who wants to take all the credit anyway? Isn’t it more rewarding to know that you’ve mothered 1000 new entrepreneurs? The more energy you are willing to invest, the more you will receive in return through your exchange of knowledge and skills. You’re building a legacy,” says Engelbrecht.

The SBA programme was a “game changer” for her business she said, and has spurred her vision to expand her business and training space by partnering with funders in training and skills development, as well as building a network of franchises over the next 10 years.

Earlier this year, she presented a skills programme to more than 30 youths from across Namaqualand and recently secured funding to take five students from the entry-level barbering qualification to a full hairdressing qualification.

“The SBA course has helped me understand the financial aspects of my business so much better. And all the modules we did fit together like a puzzle into a solid business plan – once you have put that puzzle together, your business concept can be sold in under five minutes,” she said.

Meanwhile Louw and his alter-ego Antie Katriena have appeared on national television, performed in Namibia, and are in demand for every kind of festival and event in Namaqualand, with clients across the private and public sector.

His business has gotten so busy that he employs three part-time workers to assist and he is working on a proposal for Antie Katriena’s own TV show, with a vision to establish a drama school and theatre to get the youth of Namaqualand off the streets and developing a passion for the performing arts.

The SBA had helped him to market his business better as well as putting policies in place, keeping proper records and setting up a clear business plan, he said.

“The vision of the SBA is to make a difference in the lives of small business owners in low-income communities and build their capacity to ensure the sustainability of their businesses, with positive impact on their surrounding community,” Dr Bam said.

The SBA operates in partnership with corporate and public sector support, with the main sponsors being BankSeta in the Northern Cape, Distell (now Heineken) in the Western Cape and the Joe Gqabi Economic Development Agency in the Eastern Cape.


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