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The SBA Alumni

The SBA alumni – as graduates of the USB Small Business Academy’s nine-month Development Programme – are an important part of the face of the USB SBA. Many of them now run successful businesses. Find out why they have decided to enrol for the SBA Development Programme and what it meant for their businesses.

Here are the stories of Rushana Charles, owner of a swimming school, and Thembile Gcukumani, owner of Thembile’s Breadshop:

SBA alumnus: Rushana Charles

Rushana Charles started her business in 2012. As an au pair who became a swimming instructor, she saw a need to bring swimming skills into her community in Mitchells Plain, a low-income area of Cape Town. However, she had no business background and no resources – especially no swimming pool. After a few disappointments related to the start-up of the business, Rushana had to rethink her dream. In 2014, after running the business for two years, she discovered the SBA programme. According to her, this is what she has gained from the programme:

  • Mentorship from someone who has encouraged her and given her advice and new perspectives. The benefit is a more driven and accountable business owner.
  • Skills to develop a good business and marketing plan – something she had never done before. Once she had implemented these, her business changed from making a loss to generating a profit.
  • Growth in her assets since being on the programme. She recently purchased a 23-seater bus in order to transport children to and from the swimming school.
  • Confidence to start entering competitions and apply for funding. In 2016 she was placed second for the Entrepreneurship Recognition Award. Having a solid business plan helped her to achieve this recognition.
  • Presentation skills, leadership skills, financial skills and an understanding of business language.
  • Increase in social impact for the broader community through being more organised, which can be seen through the many children who have become water-safe, some of whom have now turned into competitive swimmers. She is also creating employment for people in the community as she started with one coach (herself) and then moved to four. After having been on the SBA programme she now employs 12 swimming coaches. This has also led to increased awareness in the community of the importance of water safety.

Rushana is currently enrolled at USB for the Postgraduate Diploma in Business Development and Administration (PGD BMA). Find more information on Rushana’s swimming school at


SBA alumnus: Thembile Gcukumani

This is the story of Thembile Gcukumani, a former Boy Scout, mountaineer and experiential outdoor educator who suffered a great setback after a crippling stroke. After months of hardship, having to learn to talk and walk again, Thembile turned his misfortune into something useful. He started Thembile’s Breadshop in 2014. Based in Gugulethu, a suburb of Cape Town, Thembile bakes artisanal bread which he distributes to neighbours, local schools and churches. He participated in the SBA programme in 2016.

For him the impact of participating in the programme has been:

  • Increased confidence, which has encouraged him to stand up and present motivational talks to companies and to be a role model for his local community, especially the youth, in his own authentic style.
  • Developing general business skills and acquiring business acumen, leading to a sound marketing strategy and a business plan. Now, after having done the SBA programme, which is an NQF level 5 qualification, he now has access to further formal education.
  • The mentorship he received inspired him to discover his own purpose and to further accept and embrace his situation.

The story of Thembile’s impact strongly resonates with the following USB values:

  • Integrity – he has acquired skills to build honest relationships to further grow his business.
  • Inclusivity – despite being disabled, he has been provided with a business education – and a step closer to reach his dreams of one day enrolling on an MBA.
  • Engagement – with business education from USB  behind him he is able to engage more confidently with companies and old-age homes to provide his products to them.

Thembile has no website but has enjoyed some media coverage since he started his business and while being on the SBA programme. Read more about him at


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