Seed of entrepreneurship flourishes on market day 

Student business owners appeal for valuable platform to be regular as it boosts brand awareness. 

From student-manufactured perfumes to thrift stores presenting affordable clothing items, the Student Entrepreneurship, Education and Development (Seed) market day was a colourful display of creativity and variety. 

The market day was held at the Library Lawns on Friday, May 19, offering a lively and vibrant experience, inviting student entrepreneurs to showcase their diverse range of business products. 

In addition to introducing students to their products, the market day proved profitable for student entrepreneurs as Jean Banda from Zer Thrift, an online thrift store, said, “You can see by the way students are buying, they want more of this.”  

The Seed programme, a collaboration between the Wits Development and Leadership Unit (DLU) and the Young African Entrepreneur Institute (YAEI) was established three years ago. The DLU, a division of student affairs, provides co-curricular development opportunities for personal, social and professional growth, while the YAEI, a registered youth-led non-profit organisation, empowers youth with practical skills and support to transition their venture ideas into impactful start-ups.  

Their joint venture, Seed, aims to equip students from all faculties with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to start and successfully start and manage their own businesses. 

Thato Wesi, the executive head of marketing and corporate affairs at YAEI, said that the market day served two primary purposes: to foster confidence in student entrepreneurs, enabling them to effectively “sell themselves” and to provide them with networking opportunities with fellow student entrepreneurs.  

Madhi Mohamed, a civil engineering master’s student and the founder of HnH perfumes, said the market day was an excellent platform to raise brand awareness for his business. “People are not aware of these more Arabic, Dubai perfumes and also locally based products … where its more affordable than going to the stores where you buy perfume for R2 000. You might as well purchase one that lasts just as long for R200 [from us].”

Mahdi Mohamed (22) says his Arabic perfumes offer better value than those sold at regular stores.
Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers

Echoing Mohamed’s sentiments Lehlogonolo Mabitsi, founder of Rebellious Clothing, an online based clothing store, said that he was happy he got the opportunity to introduce his merchandise to more students. The third-year bachelor of arts in film and television student added that it was a great feeling to have customers experience his product for themselves. 

Among the vibrant stalls, a prevailing sentiment resonated among the student entrepreneurs—a unanimous desire for the market day to become a recurring event. “I feel like it would be more satisfying if these were held every two weeks,” said Banda.  

Yasmin Wania, a fourth-year LLB student and founder of Cyber Rats Attic, an online thrift and consignment store emphasised the need for more effective marketing targeting students. “If Wits decides to do it more often, which I hope they do, they should definitely tell everyone it’s happening,” says Wania. 

In response, Kristan Sharpley, a student development practitioner from the DLU, said, “The Development and Leadership Unit is definitely interested in providing more opportunities for students to showcase their businesses. As the student entrepreneurship community continues to grow, so will opportunities for them to engage with their customers.”   Samuel Zitha, a third-year politics and international relations student who attended the market, said he had discovered several brands he had been unaware of and appreciated that the market was “advertising what students really need, like clothes and affordable jewellery. It was student based, we were their target market, they did their homework, so it was good.” 

Students Sphelele Maseko (21) and Samuel Zitha (21) take a break from shopping at the Seed Market. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers

FEATURED IMAGE: Lehlogonolo Mabitisi (22), owner of Rebellious Clothing, poses with his merchandise. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers


WITH INFOGRAPHIC: Unmasking online violence 

In this digital first era, users need to be aware of technology-facilitated gender-based violence and how to report it says Wits GEO.  

A collaboration between Sunnyside Hall’s student development and gender equity office and the Wits Gender Equity Office (GEO) hopes to make students aware various forms of online violence and harassment.

The event named “Siders for Survivors,” cleverly plays on the residence name “Sunnyside,” and took place at their main study hall on May 18, 2023. The GEOs started off with definitions and examples of gender-based violence (GBV) students may experience on campus and ways to report and find help.

However, it wasn’t until technology-facilitated GBV (TF_GBV) was mentioned that people sat up in their chairs and started engaging in the discussion more enthusiastically.

TF-GBV  refers to acts of harm, such as sexual, physical, psychological, or social abuse, that are carried out or intensified using digital tools like social media. It includes cyberbullying, online harassment, non-consensual sharing of intimate content, and any other harmful behaviours online.

GEO intern Ebenezer Maimele presented the six categories that fall under TF-GBV to the group. Maimele said something as innocuous as sharing posts that portray someone in a negative light could be classified as an act of TF-GBV. Bystanders can be held legally liable for any harm caused depending on what they post or repost.  

Maimele, said people can be “upstanders” instead, by abstaining from liking, sharing, or reposting TF-GBV posts. In this way one avoids complicity and can take further action by reporting TF-GBV they come across on the timeline.

Attendee, Chioma Nzelu (18) said, “We often perceive gender-based violence as highly aggressive and explicitly violent, but it can also be subtle and considered normal or a daily occurrence.” 

Tiisetso Maleke (25), GEO member said she hopes more students report any misconduct experienced on campus, “we are there for everybody,” not just women. 

Mukelwe Mdluli (21), Sunnyside’s student development and gender and transformation officer, shared the sentiment, and said awareness is the first step in empowering students.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits GEO armbands which were gifted to the attendee’s of the “Siders for Survivor’s” event. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers


SRC in drive to banish burnout syndrome  

To mark mental health awareness month, the student support office is visiting residences and student accommodations to educate students about how to manage stress. 

Forty students turned up for the Wits SRC student support office’s first event to kick off mental health awareness month, on April 25, at Apex Studios Accommodation in Braamfontein.

The mental health drive is a student wellbeing initiative that will see SRC student support officer, Lisa Sibaca and a team of various panellists going to different student accommodations and residences to discuss mental health. 

At Apex Studios, each of the five panellists tackled a different topic relating to mental health in an interactive discussion that saw students asking questions and engaging in conversation with the panellists.

First was SRC student support member, Thato Lebitso, who addressed a topic that most students in the audience felt strongly about as it received a lot of interaction and feedback from the audience – “burnout syndrome”. He described it as “unsuccessfully managed chronic stress”.   

Lebitso explained that, although all students deal with stress, not all students deal with burnout syndrome. The key factor which distinguishes the two is the way stress is managed.  He said stress was a natural part of life and of being a student as there were always deadlines to meet or exams and tests to plan for.

However, when students do not manage their stress in a healthy way and plan their activities and obligations in detail, this leads to chronic stress which could possibly lead to burnout, Lebitso said. He identified six steps that students could implement to manage stress and avoid burnout.

Thato Lebitso’s six steps to manage stress and to avoid burnout. Infographic: Terri-Ann Brouwers

This resonated with one of the students in attendance, Lebogang Sekhitlu (23) who said, “Once you can identify [burnout], I think you can limit the harm it does.”

The drive will continue till Tuesday, May 16, and staff from the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) would take part, so that students could be aware of the resources available to them.   

“It is very easy to blame a student for not working or performing academically, but they’re suffering in terms of their mental health, so, we’re here to offer solutions,” said Sibaca.   Omphile Seqhee (19), Apex Studios’ well-being and outreach student life intern, told Wits Vuvuzela that she was more than happy to collaborate with the SRC student support office by bringing the drive to their accommodation. She was happy that students got tips on how to deal with academic stress as that is what causes students to have the most mental health struggles.

FEATURED IMAGE: SRC student support officer, Lisa Sibaca, and her team of panellists engage with the audience at a mental health drive event at Apex Studio Accommodation, Braamfontein. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers


Another milestone reached for grad with cerebral palsy 

Wits student with a motor disability successfully completes her degree despite odds being stacked against her 

At 18-month-old, Holly Heinzelmann was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after her parents realised that she was not achieving the milestones that most children her age were reaching. 

The diagnosis made it difficult for her to navigate life in a world that still has barriers that inhibit disabled people to thrive. However, Heinzelmann was determined to obtain a university degree, despite the challenges she faced. 

In April, she achieved her goal by obtaining her degree, majoring in genetics and developmental biology as well as ecology and conservation. “In general, graduating is a huge achievement for anyone, but specifically for disabled people,” she explained to Wits Vuvuzela. 

Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term which refers to a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Heinzelmann’s affected areas are her muscle tone in her legs, and maintaining balance, as a result, she is unable to walk without aid or a walking frame. To get around — because campus is big — she used a mobility scooter.  

Heinzelmann’s troubles would however not end there. After battling covid-19 in 2020, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2021. This added to the list of things she had to take into consideration when coming into campus daily, as she would have to ensure that she takes her insulin and has snacks on her to keep her blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.  

Although she is soft-spoken and meek in her demeanour, when it came to taking on the extra challenge she was faced with, Heinzelmann did it fiercely and relentlessly by continuing to show up and do the work that was required of her.    

Her mother, Meredith Heinzelmann told Wits Vuvuzela that Disability Rights Unit (DRU) helped her daughter navigate the university environment. “DRU is fantastic, and they do a fantastic job, they’ve certainly contributed to a very positive university experience for her [Holly], but there are still issues that are beyond their control like lifts not working”.  

Holly Heinzelmann and her parents, Carl and Meredith Heinzelmann the day of her graduation at the Disability Rights Unit office.
Photo: Supplied/Holly Heinzelmann

The DRU is a support unit at Wits that helps students with various disabilities. They do this by creating awareness around disabilities, making campus more accessible to these students and helping them receive reasonable accommodation.  

Heinzelmann said that the unit allowed her to keep her mobile scooter in their offices overnight to charge. This greatly helped her as it would have been too difficult for her to transport her scooter to and from campus daily.  

“If a lift stopped working and I couldn’t get to a lecture and needed to change my lecture venue I would just go to the DRU. They would assist in the engagement with the lecturers and course administration,” Heinzelmann added.  

She said the unit also assisted her to get extra time when writing exams, as the muscle tone in the lower half of her body would cause her to slouch if she sat for too long. This would affect her writing speed. 

Iman Cakirerk, a fellow Witsie and friend of Heinzelmann said that she would express her frustration about the lack of accessibility in certain labs on campus, but she always found a way to get around them.  

Heinzelmann will continue her postgraduate degree in law at Wits, and she encouraged people living with disabilities to also consider studying despite how hard it might be. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Graduate and cerebral palsy warrior Holly Heinzelmann (21) standing in front of the DRU’s offices on the day of her graduation.
Photo: Supplied/Holly Heinzelmann


SLICE: I very nearly allowed stress to kill me

After discovering the root of my depression and anxiety, it became clear why stress is referred to as “the silent killer”. 

At only 20 years old, I found myself sitting on my bed with a handful of pills ready to take my own life. I was tired of how I was feeling, and I wanted it to end.    

Two years earlier, in 2016, I had taken a gap year after I did not get accepted into any university I had applied to. I was embarrassed because in my community there is a stigma attached to taking a gap year.   

I was constantly being asked: “What are you doing with your life now?” and “Doing nothing this year will make you lazy.” While at a funeral, grieving, someone said, “Your brother didn’t take a gap year, so why are you?”  

This constant comparisons to my brother who went to university straight out of school hit me hard. So did seeing my peers move forward while I felt stagnant, and constantly feeling as if I was disappointing my parents. I started doing admin work at our church office and applied again. I eventually got accepted in 2017 for a higher certificate in journalism.  

I could have gone on to work as a journalist, but my plan was always to get an undergraduate degree first. When I received a rejection letter from UCT, I remember feeling embarrassed and like a failure again. Fortunately, I was admitted for an undergraduate degree in copywriting at Vega.  

Within the first two weeks I knew the course was not for me, but I decided to complete the year and switch to a different university or degree programme the following year. As time went on, I found myself feeling sad and angry all the time and going to class made me feel so anxious, I would cry every day.   

My breaking point came the day I received my mark for an assignment that I had worked on day and night – 37%. After that soul-crushing moment, I left campus early without telling anyone, and stopped at two different pharmacies to get as many pills as I could.  

As I sat on my bed later, the stress of dropping out was too much. So was the stress of continuing with the programme. I was ready to end my life. At that very moment, a friend messaged me: “Are you okay?” I am alive today because of that message.  

Since then, there have been a few more instances when I have felt the only way out was to take my own life. In 2022 I started seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist. What came out of these sessions was not only an ADHD diagnosis, but the fact that I have clinical depression and general anxiety disorder.  

The root cause of my mental illnesses was revealed as stress. In the sessions with my therapist, we found a pattern. Whenever life became what felt like unbearably stressful, I would reach such a low that I would only see suicide as the only way out. This discovery is what saved me. 

WHO defines stress as “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation”. An associate professor of health administration and public health at Husson University says stress is good in the short term because it allows us to meet deadlines and fulfil important tasks, however, it does not do well when it is activated long term.  

 The constant stress I had been under since 2016 had taken its toll on me mentally. I realised that I had suppressed my emotions because life was stressful for everyone, and I thought not being able to handle the pressure would make me seem weak.  

Looking back, there are many things I would do differently. I would pay attention to the feelings of hopelessness and the lows that were not just a bad day but would stay constantly with me. 

A clinical professor at Brown University, Carol Landau says that the impact of stress on depression is “one of the most important problems of our time”. I would like to echo her sentiments and add that it is one that we should treat with the seriousness it requires.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Terri-Ann Brouwers. Photo: File


Wits ousted from the FNBVarsityCup

Wits will not be progressing to the Varsity Cup semi-finals after being defeated by the NWU Eagles  

 North-West University’s Eagles have secured their spot in the Varsity Cup semi-finals on Monday, with a 36-3 victory against Wits.  

 The Eagles, affectionally known as Pukke had a strong start to the game, leading with a score of 10-3 before the game was suspended due to heavy downpours and lightning strikes.   

The match was resumed 40 minutes later when the rain subsided, but Wits’ attempts to get the quanco into the end zone failed, ending the first half with the Eagles dominating with a score of 17-3.  

When half-time ended, the heavy rains had intensified again and the game was suspended for over an hour. Most spectators left the stadium as they assumed ​​​​the game would eventually be cancelled, but it carried on despite delays.  

 In the first 20 minutes after the game resumed, Pukke extended their lead through full-back Santino Swanepoel, who received the ball from out wide and finished with a successful ​try. This resulted in the NWU Eagles leading with 24 points while Wits remained at three points. 

 In their final try, which was finished off by inside centre Luke Fortuin, the NWU Eagles solidified their win with a final score of 36-3.  

NWU player, Farai Sibanda who was sitting on the bench said the Eagles are excited about making it to the semi-finals, but “the job is not done.”  

NWU Eagles trying to turn over possession during their match against Wits. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe

Wits player, Ziyanda Msipha said that he believes the bad weather conditions negatively contributed to their overall performance. “I feel when they called it [halted the game] at first, during the first half, I believe they should have cancelled it and made us play [the next day]. I think that would have made sense because there’s a lot of momentum shifts when you’re stopping the play three or four times.”  

He explained that it was unfortunate that they did not make it to the next round. “The team is hurt, it’s badly hurt, and it’s tough because there’s quite a few players that won’t play next year, so this would’ve been their last one, ​​so in that aspect, players are really hurt.”​​  

Wits head coach, Hugo Van As said the team was “very devastated” about not making it to the semi-finals  He said although the weather was bad, he did not think it contributed to Wits performance, alluding that it was just a bad game for his team.  

He added that overall, the team performed well this year. Out of the seven games they ​​played, the games against Stellenbosch University and the University of the Free State were the only two games where they were not “on par.”   

 Wits player Jason Lee Cloete said despite the defeat, Witsies can hold their heads up high because they put a good effort on the field.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits rugby players in a maul with the NWU Eagles. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers