Learning through Experience

Learning through Experience

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A new Cape Town-based school for entrepreneurs is set to open its doors in September 2012.

The aptly-named Rocket Lab School for Entrepreneurs provides a self-styled ‘launch-pad’ for aspiring entrepreneurs who can expect to arrive with nothing but their enthusiasm and to leave with a fully fledged business.

Offering intense three month courses, Rocket Lab is a school like no other. As all learning is experientially based, there are no formal lectures or classes. Students leave not with a certificate of competence but with an actual business, or at very least the potential to set up a successful business. And instead of a graduation ceremony students are given the opportunity to pitch their business to a panel of potential funders and business partners.

The practical edge

“It’s a bit like ‘The Apprentice’ meets ‘Shark Tank’,” says co-founder and marketing guru Diane de Villiers. “We believe that the most effective way of learning to be an entrepreneur is through experience, and for that reason all activities will be based on practical assignments. But the course directors as well as a range of external mentors and specialists will be on hand to guide our students every step of the way.”

The school is the brainchild of de Villiers and serial entrepreneur Charles Bryant. It’s a response to the dire unemployment situation in the country and the very real need on the part of people who have a string of good ideas and the technical competence, but who lack the knowledge of how to set up and successfully run their own businesses.

“We believe that provided one has the passion and the desire, anybody can acquire the skills to start their own business,” says Bryant. “Our course is aimed as much at school-leavers and University graduates as it is at mid-career corporate employees looking for a change and entrepreneurs who already have their own businesses.

“Even if you have little or no idea about the business you want to set up, we will expose you to a range of possibilities and business opportunities and help you to find the one that is best suited to your particular skills and interests. We then give you the opportunity to test each and every idea within a creative and stimulating environment.”

Validating ideas

Once students have hit upon a potentially good business idea, it’s subjected to a rigorous validation process designed to assess the needs of the market and the acceptability of the idea to potential customers. Students will also receive practical training in all aspects of starting and running a business. These include accounting and measurement, the legal and regulatory aspects of starting a business and how to obtain funding. A full cycle is devoted to all aspects of marketing, including an in-depth exploration of how to maximise the power of the Internet to maximum advantage.

The course ends with the pitch to a panel of businessmen that will include angel investors and venture capitalists.

Following the initial course in September, a further three courses are scheduled for 2013, while plans are in place to set up Rocket Lab Schools in the other major centres of the country in due course.

According to De Villier, the initial response of the public to the Rocket Lab concept had been very encouraging.

“There is a great deal of interest in the concept, and we have already received a number of applications. As places on the courses are limited, potential entrepreneurs are encouraged to visit our website – www.rocketlab.co.za – and to make their applications as soon as possible.”

Find out more

Anyone interested in the Rocket Lab course is welcome to attend Rocket Lab’s Open Day on 8 August 2012 at 6pm. There’ll be a short presentation, and Q&A session. To book for the Open Day event call 082 901 5049 or email diane@rocketlab.co.za.

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