Twenty-five-year-old Calvin Pokgwadi is an entrepreneur who is out to make a difference.
As one of the nine winners of the recent Mpumalanga Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (MYEP), Pretoria resident Pokgwadi is breaking new ground by taking pathology services to rural areas. With the private pathology industry in South Africa dominated by major laboratories, he is showing real courage by trying to claim his own market share.
Pokgwadi impressed judges at a recent MYEP business bootcamp, held to choose nine entrepreneurs from across three regions in Mpumalanga to benefit from mentoring and R40 000 in seed capital.
MYEP is a partnership between the South African Breweries through its flagship enterprise development programme SAB KickStart, and the Mpumalanga Provincial Government.
Expanding the business
Pokgwadi’s company Stempath (Pty) Ltd has its headquarters in KwaMhlanga but in the year following its establishment in January 2015, had managed to expand the business to four regions, strategically positioning Stempath to cater for people with a lack of access to pathology services.
Stempath provides services to any person who needs pathology services who is referred by doctors for blood work. In some cases no referral is needed for HIV and pregnancy testing for example.
“Stempath provides high-quality, efficient pathology services around Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, and the North West,” says Pokgwadi.
While Stempath already employs 13 people, Pokgwadi says the support he has and continues to receive from MYEP is allowing him to explore opportunities in new areas of Mpumalanga.
“MYEP is allowing us to robustly compete in the sector. I am very grateful,” he says.
After matriculating at the age of 15, Pokgwadi completed a Bachelor of Science (MedSci) at the University of Pretoria.
After working in the field for a few years, he said he was prompted to start Stempath because of the “alarming high mortality rate in remote areas”.
“The inequality of healthcare concerned me and led me to find a solution to deliver pathology services to rural and sub-urban areas. We pride ourselves on taking services to the people. It is my dream to take health technology to new heights and in so doing, better serve the people.”
Market penetration and business development capital are two of the hurdles Pokgwadi has faced, which MYEP is helping him address.
“My family has been supportive of my dreams to be a successful individual from a young age. I am always motivated to make them proud of the sacrifices undertaken to get me where I am today,” he said.
Pokgwadi adds that entrepreneurs need to be supported because they solve problems and better the lives of others through employment.
“Programmes like MYEP are very important. SMMEs need to be given an opportunity to participate in the macro-economy. The future of the next generation lies in the hands of the South African youth.”
Lemmy Mdluli, Mpumalanga Economic Development and Tourism’s Chief Director: Integrated Economic Development Services says: “We are working tirelessly to ensure that Mpumalanga youth are given opportunities to advance their businesses and access opportunities that are available through our partnership with the private sector."
Mpho Sadiki, SAB’s Head Sustainable Development and Transformation says its support for youth enterprises is contributing to the bigger picture.
“By supporting youth entrepreneurship in South Africa, SAB is contributing to the country achieving its national economic development priorities. Partnerships like MYEP allow us to assist government in growing sustainable youth businesses,” says Sadiki.
MYEP is supported by the Mpumalanga Youth Chamber of Commerce and Industries SA, the Gert Sibande Technical and Vocational Education and Training College Centre of Entrepreneurship, the Small Enterprise Development Agency, as well as the National Youth Development Agency, who all contribute to developing and supporting youth entrepreneurs in Mpumalanga.