How edupreneurs are taking advantage of the private education market

And 6 important lessons you can learn from those who have launched businesses in the sector


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The education sector continues to be ripe with opportunities and private education is still earmarked as the next market that entrepreneurs should take advantage of. 

In the 2016 Budget Speech, R297.5 billion was allocated to the education sector – an increase from last year’s R265.7 billion, says Gerrie van Biljon of Business Partners Limited. 

However, despite this spending – reported at 7% of South Africa’s GDP annual spend and about 20% of the total State expenditure – there is still a demand for effective education at a good price, he says. 

In 2014 Business Partners launched a R150 million fund aimed at financing businesses such as privately owned schools, colleges, educational buildings and student accommodation, and provide support for entrepreneurs who want to help with the shortcomings in the South African education system.

This demand is increasingly opening doors for entrepreneurs with technical skills to start or expand enterprises that satisfy this need, explains Van Biljon. 

"Education does not stop with government. Other role players; namely trade unions, the business sector and industry representatives, should make a positive contribution and contribute to take on this challenge," he says.

South African entrepreneurs have eagerly taken on the challenge. There are 1 584 private schools in the system, with this number steadily growing. The number of private tertiary education facilities opening from special training institutions, specialist schools, and training facilities, is also on the rise.

In light of the opportunities in the sector, here are 6 lessons from local entrepreneurs on successfully launching an education startup. 

1. Create new models
"We are aiming to democratise education by making it open and accessible to all talented young individuals. Our institution is completely tuition-free to students. Our business model involves corporates investing in skills development, not only from a financial point of view, but they also provide internships as well as access to the workplace and a clear path to employment. We also work with our corporate partners to ensure that our curriculum remains relevant" -  Arlene Mulder, co-founder of Wethinkcode

Mulder, together with fellow co-founders Justinus Adriaanse, Yossi Hasson and Camille Agon are the brains behind WeThinkCode, a peer-to-peer and not-for-profit university training young people to become world-class software engineers. More here.  

2. Make it indispensable
"My passion for the fields of education and human development are based on my own life experience. No one can ever take your education away from you and your honed skills with people will always build more connections with new people and empower you even further as a woman" - Genevieve Allen, managing director of Sherpa Kids South Africa

Sherpa Kids is an international childcare franchise which operates in more than 10 countries, including New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, Canada the UAE and South Africa. More here

3. Make it scale​
"Our business model supports rapid and large-scale change. Online courses are scaleable and open to anyone, and we have an innovative solution that lets low LSM individuals take courses with us even without good internet connection. Over 60% of students on our free courses do not even own an internet connection yet are able to take a course with us" -  Riaz Moola,  founder and director of Hyperion Development, a company offering software development training. 

Hyperion Development is the largest provider of computer science education (which includes software development and programming) in SA. 

They train university students from every tertiary institution in South Africa (and most of Southern Africa) on their online courses, as well as industry professionals from across the country. More here

4. Stand out
"Our differentiator is the ability to reach each and every child's needs through the differentiated instruction SPARK offers. This is a result of our blended learning model.

"We did not realise how small and inter-connected the education community is. The education industry is still very traditional in its methodology.

"The biggest hurdle in starting a business is building credibility and legitimacy in the market. Not only for parents to enrol their children but also for educators to want to work at SPARK" - Stacey Brewer, co-founder of SPARK Schools.  

Stacey Brewer and Ryan Harrison launched SPARK Schools, a growing network of private primary schools currently in the Gauteng region. More here.  

5. Fill a gap
"As someone who interacts with entrepreneurs through various projects, I have come to realise that entrepreneurs are very good technicians, they master their skills and crafts very well, but struggle to translate those skills and crafts into a successful and sustainable business.

"We need to revolutionise our education system to teach people to be entrepreneurs" - Roche Mamabolo, founder of Lora Academy

Lora, which means dream in SeTswana, was founded by Roche Mamabolo, an entrepreneur and author. The academy officially opened in Johannesburg in July this year. Lora offers both business and leadership courses with the intention of helping entrepreneurs navigate the business world. More here

6. ​Make it personal
"I had a very bad experience with daycare when my oldest son was little. I walked into his school and found him unattended, screaming in his bed. I took him home and promised myself to never leave any of my children at a daycare ever again. When my last child was born – 16 years later, I decided to look at schools again in the hopes that things would have changed in 16 years. When I could not find a quality daycare centre, I decided to make a difference in South Africa and started the first Internet-monitored Opti-Baby & Kids School" - Ina van der Merwe, founder of Opti-Baby daycare centres. 

Established in October 2003, Opti-Baby daycare centres promotes early childhood development, and accepts babies from six weeks to five years old. More here. 

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