Raizcorp puts its money where its mouth is

Buys a school to help mould future entrepreneurs.

According to the 2015/2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s (GEMS) global report, entrepreneurial employee activity is low and SA suffers a dearth of business management skills.

“We can squeal about the lack of entrepreneurs in our economy, or we can do something about it,” says Raizcorp’s founder and CEO Allon Raiz. With this in mind, Raizcorp bought Radley Private School in Ferndale, Johannesburg in December 2015.

One year later the school, comprised of a primary and high school, has gone from a loss to a profit. Viewing the learners as clients, serving them as such and running the school with business principles seems to have made all the difference, say Raiz and Johan Coetzee, Raizcorp’s director of schools and a former ADvTECH properties director.

Raiz says it aims to create the millionaires, intrapreneurs, innovators and leaders of the future. (Intrapreneurs, according to Investopedia, act like entrepreneurs but within a larger organisation and tend to be highly self-motivated, proactive and action-oriented, able to take initiative.)

Learn as you will

A PhD graduate of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School helped augment all the subjects in the CAPS curriculum with entrepreneurship principles.

The layout and design of the school now shies away from traditional elements. The passages and classrooms are peppered with entrepreneurship messages, quotes from inspirational business leaders such as Elon Musk and cityscape silhouettes. Incremental changes, said to make the space more appealing and conducive to learning, are being made to classrooms, such as replacing some chairs with Pilates balls – useful in helping learners with attention deficit disorders to concentrate. 

The high school’s pilot classroom has “ergonomically-flexible seating and working options” for different learning styles. There’s a couch and lap-boards, collaborative and standing desks, beanbags, a FatSak and a ‘pitch-patch’ – on which learners present business ideas which classmates critique. This, Raiz says, builds confidence and familiarity with presenting. The idea is that learners are made to feel comfortable and drawn to the space and can test what works best for them in terms of concentrating.

The layout changes seem to have helped boost concentration and collaboration and the model will be rolled out to other classes, says Raiz. The primary school will set up its pilot class this year. 

If learners want an addition to the school – such as lockers – they must motivate for it with a business plan, showing how it will generate returns for the school, says Coetzee. This exposes them to business-thinking and how the real-world works. 

Learners are taught to see information with ‘opportunity eyes’ and from others’ perspectives and contexts. It’s hoped they’ll become lateral, independent, creative thinkers, observant and able to self-teach in a world with dynamic information. 

Teachers

As any school knows – change needs to have teachers’ backing and, after some doubt, Radley teachers are on board, says Raiz. 

Principal Douglas Andrews has developed an entrepreneurship teacher-training programme, which Raizcorp facilitates.

Another way teachers learn about business is through the school tuckshops. Each teacher runs one for a term, deciding on stock and pricing and learning about market research. 

But they’re kept on their toes. When it’s appraisal time, Andrews has teachers share with him all they know about each student, and what they’ve done to assist them. Appraisal outcomes depend on how well they know the students, he says.

Mind development

“…we need to ensure that we understand and address the unique academic and entrepreneurial potential of each student,” says Raiz.

As such, Radley’s psychologist, or ‘mind-development specialist’ Jade Lombard is involved with each student’s learning. Students take part in weekly ‘mind development sessions’ with Lombard, who uses movement to build right-left brain connectivity and strengthen core muscles for “creative problem-solving and critical-reasoning skill”, according to the school.

She also accesses their weaknesses, strengths and learning challenges, then works with teachers to adapt teaching methods to each student’s needs. This happens collaboratively with all teachers in a grade, so they can share what has or hasn’t worked for a specific student.

Technology

Coding will soon be taught and the school offers the apparently-growing e-sport (professional and competitive gaming), which helps kids learn about sponsorship and market research, according to Raiz. 

Radley will also run a pilot entrepreneurship challenge this year, where students pitch business ideas to Andrews and Coetzee. They then present to Raizcorp’s Purple Panel and those successful move into its entrepreneurial programme.

The school is working on job shadowing opportunities and has launched an entrepreneurship gap year. More about this on 702 here.

Not for everyone

The school has maintained its consistent 100% matric pass rate (NSC exams)and there have been 78 new additions. There are currently 120 students across both schools. However, management is contemplating moving both schools to bigger premises.

The school’s layout and practices may raise some eyebrows; it’s certainly not authoritarian and not for every student. But it’s not trying to be.

“Entrepreneurs are not mainstream…. The general student here is not a mainstream kid. They are creative and think differently,” says Raiz.

Other organisations

In terms of other organisations in this space, registered NPO Trust ‘The SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation’ aims to grow ‘an entrepreneurial spirit’ in high school learners in South Africa through seminars, workshops, conferences, and exhibitions. 

The foundation has formed the Association of South African High School Entrepreneurs Societies, to grow entrepreneurs and business leaders at all high schools in the country through establishing entrepreneur clubs and societies in each high school, reports Caban Investments.

SA Institute for Entrepreneurship (SAIE) also offers entrepreneurship courses, accredited with SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA) through Service Seta.

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