Imvelisi Enviropreneurs Programme sets young entrepreneurs up for success in SA’s green economy

In 2020 the South African government published its Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. The plan recognises green economy interventions as a critical factor in not only addressing the country’s persistent challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment but also in offering a sustainable solution to driving economic competitiveness.

Imvelisi, an impactful ideation and early-stage business development platform, is plugging the gap that exists in the country’s green economy by developing young eco-innovators and their ideas through an innovative Enviropreneurs Programme.

The programme is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and is in partnership with GreenMatterZA and the South African Young Water Professionals Network (YWP-ZA). It consists of two key components. The first is a training boot camp that fosters entrepreneurship and business success by giving 50 young and aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to explore their ideas and gain insight into starting a business in the water, biodiversity and environmental sectors.

The second component of the programme selects six participants who have shown unique potential during the boot camp, giving them access to mentorship and one-on-one support for 12 weeks.

The Imvelisi Enviropreneurs Programme has trained a total of 132 enviropreneurs to-date and recently concluded its fourth boot camp in November, the first one launched in 2015. This was just in time for the start of Global Entrepreneurship Week (16-22 November), which celebrated innovators who dream big and launch start-ups that bring ideas to life.

Imvelisi draws knowledge and expertise from industry mentors whose guidance helps entrepreneurs’ business ventures succeed.

“There are hundreds of business incubators, enterprise development and business mentorship programmes operating in South Africa, yet ideation phase enviropreneurs still struggle due to a lack of support in the early stages of the business development cycle,” says Janavi Da Silva, Director of Programmes at GreenMatter.

“Our Enviropreneurs Programme provides ideation training to young enviropreneurs, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and resources to assess market potential, structure a business and partnership proposal and test the viability of their ideas and concepts. We create opportunities for them to learn, adapt and network in the green sector.”

Imvelisi not only helps break down the barriers to entry but is also aware that countless entrepreneurs spend a significant amount of time and money trying to determine if there would be a potential market for their product or service offering. To simplify the process, Imvelisi provides detailed Market Intelligence Reports that include a wide range of business opportunities that currently exist in the green economy. The reports significantly cut down the cost of market entry.

The programme is constantly evolving to offer aspiring young environmental entrepreneurs the best business advice, technical insights relevant to their unique environmental discipline and mentorship to help develop their business plans. More recent developments include the introduction of guidebooks designed specifically for entrepreneurs looking to start invasive alien plant species removal and beneficiations businesses.

Partner and stakeholder investments have seen the programme digitise its bootcamps to offer virtual, extended month-long sessions, as opposed to its previous one-week bootcamp. Placing the entrepreneurs under pressure to pitch after four days. Entrepreneurs now have access to a more flexible Enviropreneur programme guided by industry experts who walk the journey with the attendees to ensure they develop their business plans more effectively and get even more knowledge and insights from the training sessions.

“We’ve seen a massive difference since the introduction of our virtual boot camp, where entrepreneurs are pitching much stronger business ideas to the team. This is a significant improvement compared to previous years and we owe it to the additional hands-on support from industry experts we’ve been able to bring on board. Going into the future, we plan on continuing to innovate so we can reach even more Enviropreneurs and expanding the impact we’ve been able to make so far, looking into the future for a greener economy on the African continent,” adds Da Silva.

“The Imvelisi Enviropreneurs programme is a necessary step for entrepreneurs looking to develop themselves professionally. We’re proud to be a part of such an impactful initiative, which forms a critical part of early-stage entrepreneurial development,” adds Lucky Litelu, Project Lead from South African Young Water Professionals.

“The programme enables entrepreneurs to turn their green business ideas from cerebral thoughts into tangible businesses and gives me confidence that the future of South Africa and the future of the African continent is in the right hands.” 

Visit to find out more about the Enviropreneurs Programme. 

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