Student and local entrepreneurs gain essential business intelligence from the VUT networking Business Summit

By: Puleng Maphisa – 27 October 2023

On 20 October 2023, the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) drew scores of budding studentpreneurs, local small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) entrepreneurs, as well as business and government sector experts under one roof for the much-anticipated Networking Business Summit.

Held at the VUT Quest Conference Centre, the Summit was a culmination of a dynamic collaboration between the VUT students pursuing Advanced Diploma in Public Relations and the Emfuleni Local Municipality.

From the planning stage to the day of the event, the Summit was organised by the students as part of their academic assessment project. Annually, the PR students are required to plan and execute an event with a social responsibility twist attached to it. This is aimed at honing the students’ skills in the discipline of PR and event planning to ensure that they are ready for the world of work upon graduating.

The focus of this interactive event was designed to provide attendees with a platform to debate, network, gain valuable business intelligence and insights from sector experts. Representatives from various government agencies such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) and Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) also presented the different funding and support mechanisms that are available for start-up companies.

The full day’s event covered various aspects of entrepreneurship, including business planning, financial management, marketing strategies, and the use of modern technologies to enhance business operations.

Notably, in addition to the thought-provoking conversations and exchange of innovative ideas, the more than one hundred business enthusiasts were taken through the importance of registering their Intellectual property. This segment of the program was led by Mrs Martha Ikome, an IP Advisor and Acting Senior Manager for Technology Transfer Office at VUT. Ikome’s talk was centred around making participants aware and understand that without protecting their ideas, they would not be able to reap the full benefits of their inventions.

One of the standout features of the summit was that it provided a platform for local businesses and start-ups to showcase their products and services in an exhibition area, fostering collaboration and networking opportunities for attendees. Participants had the chance to interact with these businesses, gain first-hand experience in various industries, and explore potential partnerships and opportunities.

To give the day’s keynote address was Kamogelo Aphane, a VUT alumnus and Founder and Managing Director of The Portable PA and Publicist, a communications and brand reputation management company that helps company and individual brands curate their desired brand voices. In her talk, Aphane emphasised the importance of being focused and intentional in all that you do as an entrepreneur. “Don’t be an all-rounder, know what your specialisation is, focus on it and be intentional about it,” she said.

She also gave a masterclass on making use of social media for personal branding, adding that one’s online conduct may have an impact on their brands in the long run – be it for job or business opportunities. As a PR graduate from VUT herself, Aphane urged current students to take all the knowledge imparted to them by their lecturers, saying she is where she is because of those lifelong lessons.

Kgomotso Jane Nkosi, a student and project leader for the event said as PR students they recognize the significance of effective networking in the business world, adding that a well-executed networking event can lead to valuable connections, partnerships, and opportunities. “Organizing a successful networking business summit is no small task, but it can yield substantial rewards. Specifically, organising such an event as PR students demanded a blend of strategic thinking, audience insight, and resource management. By adhering to these fundamental principles, we crafted an event that not only achieved its goals but also left a lasting impact on participants while setting a solid foundation for future summits,” said Khomotso.

Other companies that made presentations on the day included Seriti Coal Mine, Bang Capital, Sibanyeni Metro, Eyethu Computer School, Emfuleni Informal Traders Association and Farming community.

In the end, the overarching goal of the Business Summit of igniting the entrepreneurial spirit among students and aspiring businesspeople by providing them with the tools and inspiration they need to chart their own path in the business world, was achieved. This was even more so evident from the interactive question and answer session that proved how inquisitive participants were.