The Awethu Project is calling all entrepreneurs in South Africa who have established, innovative businesses with the potential for growth to apply for up to R5-million in equity funding.Brand South Africa reporterYusuf Randera-Rees, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Awethu Project, told talk radio station 702 that the South African government had given the initiative R64- million to invest in entrepreneurs. “Early stage entrepreneurs looking for between R500 000 and R5-million equity capital can apply on our website,” he said.The Awethu Project is an entrepreneurship development company that was started by Randera-Rees in 2009. He said whether you were a black industrialist or a spaza shop owner, if you wanted help, you should be willing to partner with Awethu.Awethu was not interested in just giving debt. “We want to help you (the entrepreneur) grow. We focus on things like finance, giving you a chance to go to an academy to get your MBA. I know all entrepreneurs need that, because I am an entrepreneur,” he said.If your application was successful, you would get your money in 30 days. But, he cautioned, “it’s going to be a lot of hard work; you have to show how excellent you are”.Support for growthYusuf Randera-Rees, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Awethu Project. (Image: GEC)This opportunity was for entrepreneurs who were seeking financial and operational support to grow their business, without giving up control, News24 quoted Randera-Rees as saying. “The Awethu Project will partner with them,” he said.It would also back up the successful candidates with a support team of experts in everything, including recruitment, black economic empowerment, labour law and marketing.“Awethu elects to invest in equity because we want to be partners, and want to help entrepreneurs grow – we believe this is the answer to our country’s unemployment problem. The basic idea is that we go into partnership with the business owners we work with. We have the same incentive as the business owners to grow their businesses, and if we accomplish that we share in the rewards.”The cost of the investment is a negotiated equity stake, which brings Awethu on board as a high impact partner. “With over 100 successful entrepreneurs that have passed through Awethu’s doors, this venture capital fund has a proven track record of solid returns for investors, and high growth rates for entrepreneurs.”With funding from the government’s Jobs Fund and Discovery, as well as support from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Awethu is offering an opportunity for entrepreneurs who have “ambition and talent, but lack entrepreneurship training and funding”.Origins of the Awethu ProjectRandera-Rees grew up in a mixed-race family in apartheid South Africa. It shaped his identity and inspired his commitment to social and economic change into South Africa.“While studying at Harvard, Randera-Rees realised that South Africa has people in under-resourced communities with talent equal to those at Harvard and Oxford. The difference being that the people back home were not being given the opportunity to achieve their potential. It was clear that there was talent in our country that wasn’t being developed,” reads the project’s website.Believing that South Africa should be an equal country, Randera-Rees decided he was going to use business as a means to achieve effective and sustainable social impact.He returned to South Africa with R60 000, and headed for Alexandra township in north-eastern Johannesburg. He gave the Awethu Project message to the community that it could “offer you world-class resources”. One month later, 2 000 people had applied for funding.Six years later, Awethu has hundreds of millions of rands to invest in entrepreneurs, with its sights set on R1-billion in the future.Awethu offers an opportunity for entrepreneurs who have “ambition and talent, but lack entrepreneurship training and funding”. (Image: Awethu Projects) Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.