As an International Development student at Notre Dane University in Indiana, United States Liam Coolican applied to conduct research and gain work experience at Riversands I-Hub.

When I arrived at Riversands I-Hub earlier this year, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been scheduled to work at the Hub last year but couldn’t travel because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This meant that I was initially only able to participate virtually, navigating the six-hour time difference and a new culture from more than 12 800km away. While it was a fantastic experience, personal interaction with the entrepreneurs – the core of Riversands’ mission – was sorely missing.

So, when I was awarded a grant through the Kellogg Institute to conduct research abroad, I immediately chose Riversands I-Hub. I’d already made great connections, so it was an easy choice. My project focused on how factors such as Hub ecosystem services and resources, external resources, and entrepreneurial characteristics impact venture progress among participating enterprises at the Hub.

My daily interaction with various entrepreneurs was incredible, and it really broadened my worldview. In the United States, when you hear the word “entrepreneur”, companies like Uber or Facebook come to mind. I quickly learnt that the context is very different in South Africa, yet the stories I heard from Riversand’s entrepreneurs were more inspiring than any businesses to come out of Silicon Valley.

Everyone I talked to was on a unique journey, and every business was different, but I was struck by one similarity: that no matter the size of a business, entrepreneurship has the ability to not only develop individuals, but to grow entire communities.

I experienced many amazing things during my six weeks, but most notable was my first-hand experience of South African’s resilience and dedication, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Riversands I-Hub.

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