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Innovative Letsoso scoops top Soweto business award


Young Nthabiseng Letsoso is the inaugural overall winner of the Soweto Business Stars Awards, a new City of Johannesburg business competition that seeks to acknowledge entrepreneurs in the township who run their businesses in an innovative way.
Letsoso, who also won the Social Revolutionary Award category, walked away with a total of R175 000 in prizes after the judges were highly impressed with her unique after-school project that teaches children to make art using recycled material and sell the work to various galleries in Johannesburg.

She was named the overall winner at an awards ceremony held at the Empowerment Zone in Diepkloof, Soweto, on Wednesday July 13 after beating four other finalists from a shortlist of 20 to scoop the coveted prize. More than 350 entries were received.

Letsoso was awarded R100 000 for winning her category and a further R75 000 after her project was adjudged the best of the five. The other winners were Joseph Phahlwane (Rising Star category), Mzansifyd Takeaway Ads (Service Superstar), Gamerz Explosion (Technovator) and Mel Prods SA (Zero to Hero). They each won R100 000 cash injection for their businesses.

Speaking after being handed the prize, Letsoso said she taught children who attended her after-school project to be "problem solvers".

"I think it's our responsibility as young entrepreneurs to come up with solutions to the problems we are faced with today," said Letsoso.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development Cllr Ruby Mathang said Johannesburg was about entrepreneurship and giving young people the platform and support to flourish in their desired businesses. He said through the Soweto Business Stars Awards the City aimed to reward innovation.

"Entrepreneurship is the strength of transformation. The strength of an idea does matter a lot because that idea will determine whether your business succeeds or not," said MMC Mathang.

He said the City wanted to promote entrepreneurs who did not have the necessary finances and advisory support they needed to make it big, hence the business hub it had set up across its regions.

"The Executive Mayor [Cllr Parks Tau] and Members of his Mayoral Committee have been spending time in Soweto to engage residents and to see what has been done and what still needs to be done in developing this iconic place," he said.

He expressed concern about youth unemployment in Soweto, where 42% of young people are without work, which contributed to high levels of poverty.

"Youth unemployment is crippling our nation and the Mayor wants to create a city that has an inclusive economy," said MMC Mathang.

The MMC said the City recognised young people who empowered themselves and created employment for others.

"To all the finalists, young people in your communities look up to you. Don't slow down in your initiatives. Push even harder and we will certainly lend a helping hand in the best way we can," he said.