SU student entrepreneur has big dreams

Pia Nänny

It has been said that entrepreneurs are born, not made. And this is certainly true of Dewald Müller, currently studying towards an honours degree in Actuarial Science, and co-founder of the company Adflow.

His entrepreneurial flair, determination and dedication were recognised on various platforms during the past few months.

In July 2015 he received the Innovation Award at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s national fellowship jamboree.

In October he was named one of the winners of the Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab Business Incubator’s Pitching Platform competition, and in November he gained recognition at the Western Cape Premier’s Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards (PERA) by winning the category for Best Innovative Student Business Idea. In February 2016 he came third in South Africa in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards.

During this time he also graduated with a BCom degree, cum laude.

But where did it all start? When he started the business “Biltong Broers” as a Grade 4 pupil at Robertson Primary School? When he calculated that he could earn more money by pushing trolleys than working on the till in the local supermarket during school holidays? When he noticed students’ habit of buying expensive coffee and started Cuppa Campus, installing vending machines in residences? Or when he realised that these coffee cups are “billboards on wheels” and that he would be able to sell coffees and cappuchinos at cheaper prices if he could persuade companies who offer services to students to advertise on the cups?

Which he did.

And now he is expanding his horizon beyond campus (watch this space) and exploring the idea of a cross-subsidisation marketing process that gives companies direct access to the lower income market while enabling the lower income market to attain basic products at lower costs.

“I used to think that entrepreneurship was about creating something that didn’t exist and making money off it. But I realised it’s about influencing the environment around you. How do you start a business that people want to be a part of? My dream is to take what I’ve learnt until now, and build on it to create something that is profitable and that South Africa can benefit from.”

Coming to Stellenbosch University, living in Eendrag residence and taking part in the above-mentioned competitions, has opened Dewald’s eyes to the myriad of opportunities available. And he is making use of each and every one, and creating some of his own along the way. He finds the networking opportunities especially valuable.

But being a student entrepreneur is not easy, and he has had to learn to deal with red tape, disasters and failures.

Shortly after Cuppa Campus installed its first vending machine, he was woken up early on a Saturday morning by someone informing him that the machine’s pipe had burst during the night and that the floor was under water.

Even though he had to write a test that morning, Dewald first had to sort out the mess and arrange for a plumber…

“I’ve had to deal with some of the most difficult challenges of my life and there are times that I wish I can just be a student.”

But Dewald firmly believes that if you walk out of university with only a degree, you’ve wasted your time.

He finds his subjects very useful and enjoys the irony of studying a course that teaches you how to determine risk and avoid it.

“And as soon as I walk out of class, I jump off a cliff,” he smiles.

“When you’re an entrepreneur you don’t go into things half-heartedly. You go into it with everything you have. You have to learn to take that first step, not to take yourself too seriously and to be patient, persistent and positive.”