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How to become a business owner while still at school!

Step Up to a Startup is a program that begun over 13 years ago by Martin Sweet and has developed into one of South Africa’s most iconic entrepreneur programs, supported by government at the highest level.  Primestars has grown into one of this country’s most supported educational programs and together with Nkosinathi Moshoana, Primestars Marketing  takes the education sector  to a completely new level.

The enthusiasm for education of learners started many years ago when Martin Sweet was the city councillor for Yeoville.  He saw how much difference education could make to so many yet so few had access to it. Today his dream is a reality as his many funded projects in the education sector, make getting a matric a reality. Together with Nkosi, the General Manager of Primestars Marketing, the team is a formidable duo.

One of my favourite projects has to be the Step up to a Startup youth entrepreneurship initiative and I managed to get them both to stop long enough to chat to me and fill me in on the latest Step up to a Start up project.

Martin’s eyes light up when he talks about his own journey “ There are 4 qualities that manifested my  journey and that is creativity, highly concientious, disagreeableness, and always be in a hurry. Small wins and a sense of urgency.  When I started out I wanted to use the cinemas to educate people and everyone wondered why because that’s a place for entertainment.

Martin Sweet, CEO of Prime Stars

We began by downlinking guys like Richard Branson and slowly implemented our school programs. 16000 high school learners attended screenings of a movie that offered a process to teach them to be social and environmental entrepreneurs.  Total 60000 have gone through program since inception.

We started teaching children about executive education 13 years ago and then we changed it to teaching children about entrepreneurship.  We teach that entrepreneurs don’t conform to standards that are set out. They are not ordinary people.  They won’t take no for an answer”

I moved on to Nkosinathi and he too got excited when he spoke and as his hands waved around to make a point, he asked himself the question “How am I going to build on this incredible legacy and create my own journey?”

Nkosinathi was brought into the business 2015 as project co ordinator. He has brought into the program great leadership abilities and growth potential. He continues “ Young people are very exciting and youth development is alighned to my life’s purpose. My innate drive is helping young people be the best that they can be.  I faced a lot of challenges very early in my life, and I had to grow up quite quickly in order to take up a much bigger role in helping my mom raise me and my siblings. This, as wel as my other past experiences, have helped me to understand other people’s challenges and help them utilize these challebges in the same way I did”.

Moving back to the program and outlining their visiion, Nkosinathi says “According to Minister Lindiew Zulu, Step up is one of the most effective and relevant well supported programs for youth entrepreneural development.  Stepup came into being with the huge unemployment rate and the only way you could solve it was to create a culture of entrepreneurship among young people and especially in schools.

The process has to begin in schools. Creating a mindset.

Nkosinathi Moshoana, GM of Prime Stars

Martin jumped in and said “The bigsuccess factor is that we get these young people to take responsonsibilty for their own problems with in their communities. The methodology we teach is problem solution fit, product market fit and scale. We help them to add value to their community, their planet and by making the lives of those around them better through busiensses that they can benefit from.. Unlke an NGO we want them to be sustainable and the only way we can do this is to be the boss of their own business.”

Step up to a Startup VI has a boot camp for 4 days starting 1 December where our sponsors such as Sasol and MTN are taken back to their young days of dreams and asperations. It culminates in a glittering gala dinner on the 5th December in Pretoria where the final team takes to the stage to accept their reward.

The boot camp that leads up to this auspicious event is a time to perfect their pitch and busines smodel through focussing on their minds on the business model. They present to the sponsors in their own way and from that they learn about what makes a successful business. For instance you can be a technician or a hairdresser but if you don’t know how to market or advertise even cash flow and management, you won’t be successful.  Coming on this course teaches them how to grow as a business.

Business Acumen is needed to do business such as strategy and that’s what we teach.

There are Amazing success stories to come out of this program. One team went to America with their solar umbrella and another is now the top fashion label using their winnings of anyting from bursaries to cash. One of our youngsters have written their own book and another has created an app for township taxis.

Primestars Marketing is focussed on helping young people to be creative and find their way in the world. Solving problems and keeping in with stem subjects such as maths and science. Understanding money and the work ethic.

Nkosinathi says, “There is a story and history that I am walking into on my journey.

It is difficult to walk into that legacy that Martin created but I have to grow it and keep up with the changing times. I have to learn how do you do more with less and go from a marketing company to an education company. Evolving is what keeps our business, and any business, going in the direction of growth and sustainability”.

And what keeps Martin up at night? “ How will I find sponsors that will keep us  going? Succes of our company and we have youth and the power of age wisdom. And we see it with the dot bomb. Nkosinathi will give them space and I won’t..  The urgency of the company is to succeed and to keep the spirit of Ubuntu. It’s a Combination of delivery and destination”.

Nkosinathi says something different.  “The business is aligned to my purpose.  I am a Christian and I have this innate belief that we were put on this earth for a reason, to dominate, to attain, to influence and expand the mandate of the universe. The age difference between myself and Martin brings a lot of debates that lead to really progressive results. And I often win but it helps to know what the younger generation wants as we are in the age where Milleniums rule!”


I shut down my computer and smiled. I am filled with energy and belief in South Africa. We will make it and we will succeed. Through our youth and through the energy of people like Martin and Nkosinathi, my faith in humanity is restored.


The cast and crew of Anytime Magazine will be giving the top three winning teams and their products a full page of advertising plus a page of editorial. With guidance from the Primestars team we will allocate each of the top three teams from 2016 and 2017 one issue, with supported online and social media coverage.  Please support this initiative by sponsoring their page through an advert in the publication. Contact adsales@anytimemedia.co.za for more details.

Pull quotes

The Step Up program is the most influential programme in the country

Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business

In this boot camp, we learn to help our country and to improve the situation from worse to good, from negative to positive

Step Up 2014 Boot camp attendee

About the author

Geniene Preston

I have travelled the world – almost 82 countries and has been in publishing since 2003. Before that I was an IT Project manager for over 20 years and woke up one day to the realisation that actually all I wanted to do was write. So I started my first magazine Style in IT which was, in essence, a newsletter. But I loved it and I started my own mouthpiece SA Commuter. I re-invented myself once Smart phones became popular and learnt Social Media so that I could be a pro at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Now I could have fun instantly! My world has grown and includes reviews and with over 49000 followers on Trip Advisor I am in the top 1% of reviewers in South Africa. I am a true South African and a love of Johannesburg has kept me here since 1981. My stories are real and I love people and history! Now I publish Anytime Magazine in print and online as well as my blog, sacommuter.com

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