How the JA Company Program Shaped My View of Entrepreneurship

JA Alum, Neliswa Bhembe is a student in Swaziland. Her JA Company, Hawk Arts, won the Africa Company of the Year competition in 2016. The Company of the Year is an annual competition which brings together students across Africa who have completed training in entrepreneurship education through JA’s Company Program. Hawk Arts an exclusive arts manufacturing company that designs decorative materials using nails and thread. Neliswa writes about her experience below.

My first encounter with JA was when JA Swaziland representatives visited my school to introduce the program. I got intrigued by the idea of starting and running a business. I was instantly drawn to the program and decided to participate, without the slightest idea that I would be voted as general manager.

The social responsibility project we embarked on was one, amongst many, of the highlights of my experience. It enlightened me on the extent to which businesses can improve communities in which they are established. I enjoyed every minute of it. The flight to Zimbabwe and the whole Company of the Year (COY) experience was unforgettable . My entrepreneurship skills were stretched in a transformational way. There’s a lot I took with me from the Regional COY competition and this will always remain vivid in my memory.

After that experience a lot of things changed which include the way I perceived entrepreneurship as a whole. I discovered that it’s not merely about starting a business, but going through the process of recognizing and adding value in a business through creativity and innovation. I am more goal-driven than I was before.  The experience taught me that in life you do not get what you want, but what you work for.  I have learnt to embrace challenges and strive for success. Most importantly, I have learnt teamwork and coordination.

My teammates and I had the experience of corporate volunteers in our JA program. This grew our enthusiasm towards the program. The support we received helped us embrace and overcome challenges that came with starting a business from scratch. My career seems to be in a steady upward trajectory, given that I have been moving from one level of leadership to another.  I am currently doing my last year in senior secondary high school and running a student business.

Because of the JA company program, I have grasped the understanding of economics and business concepts through a real life business experience. As a result, I hope pursue business.

I would prioritize in the manufacturing area since countries particularly see strong growth by exporting manufacturing industries. Construction growth is growing to accomodate increases in urban population. These sectors are definitely the emerging sectors.

In the 21st century the youth, who make more than half of the world’s population can be actively involved in lifting economies as agents of change through JA programs. Support given to businesses owned by the youth can go a long way in motivating them to invest in creative ventures in  ICT.

A large proportion of my motivation comes from within. My vision goals me to persevere. – Neliswa Bhembe, CEO, Hawk Arts





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