Use gap-year to become an entrepreneur

The idea of a gap-year, typically to do odd jobs in London, Europe or elsewhere, has become the “in thing” among school-leavers because many are still uncertain as to what they want to do and achieve in life. Even after such a gap-year more often than not many still don’t know what they want to do. That is because such a year is not always structured with guidance to accompany it.

In order to overcome this, the public executive development and training company of the University of Stellenbosch Business School, USB Executive Development (USB-ED), has developed an entrepreneur’s programme in order to make such a gap-year as productive as possible.

The programme is to be presented in Stellenbosch from 6 February and Lynwood, Pretoria from 20 February this year.

The programme is not only aimed at school-leavers, but also at students who have terminated their studies, as well as young graduates who want to create their own employment opportunities.

According to the gap-year programme leader at USB-ED, DeWet Schoeman, the idea is to encourage and elucidate entrepreneurial thinking in participants of the programme. It will teach them how to create and identify their own opportunities for a possible future career.

“The idea is not that participants should establish a business directly upon conclusion of the programme. The focus is rather to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and to help a person to find its feet, to get to know him or herself and in which direction to go in life,” said Schoeman.

The programme, which is presented over a period of ten months, comprises of two phases.

The first phase, which is more theoretical in nature and during which three morning classes per week will have to be attended, covers three areas of development. The first deals mainly with self-discovery and what a person expects from life. The second deals with development of entrepreneurial thought, and how to identify opportunities and to capitalise on them in a way that creates prosperity for oneself and others. Thirdly, it comprises of the basic principles and skills needed to establish a small to medium enterprise and manage it.

The learning process will be reinforced by a process of life-coaching through which participants will be assisted to understand and accept themselves and others, to overcome challenges and to accept personal challenges.

The second phase is more practical in nature and offers participants the opportunity to put that what they learnt in the first phase, into practice.

While support will be given in the identification of job and other development opportunities, it is the participants who will be primarily responsible for exposure to the world of work and business in areas that they themselves have identified.

During this phase it will be expected from participants to develop a personal life plan, as well as a business plan for a business idea of their own choice. This plan must be presented to a panel for final evaluation. It will also be expected of participants to report back regularly on their experiences and development.

It is possible to undertake the second phase of the programme while working in London or elsewhere, with report-backs done over the internet.

The ‘adventure’ of going overseas is therefore not discouraged. By doing it with the knowledge of yourself, skills and entrepreneurial expertise, a participant will be far better equipped to get more value from this for the future.

Participants will be required to present a business plan by the end of the programme in order to qualify for a certificate in entrepreneurship and business management.

“A gap-year does not have to be a year of survival, but rather one that is structured and filled with discovery and excitement,” Schoeman said.