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Startups & Safari

Business students travel to South Africa to work as consultants in one of the world’s newest emerging economies.

The jeep crept to a halt and its occupants fell silent. A white rhinoceros blocked their path, and showed no signs of moving anytime soon, lazily grazing on the grass.

“I can’t believe I’m actually here, seeing this,” marketing major Ryan Coe’17 whispered to his classmates.

The group had come to Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa for an evening safari in search of its famous “Big Five” game animals. So far, they’d spotted two: an elephant in the distance, and the rhino just a few feet away. Once the majestic animal ambled into the bush, the vehicle safely passed, continuing the search for the elusive lion, leopard and Cape buffalo.

The adventure capped off a nine-day trip for the 27 undergraduate and graduate business students who spent spring break working as consultants with local startups as part of an International Entrepreneurship Consulting class offered by the Frank G. Zarb School of Business.


Students studying marketing, management, entrepreneurship, and international business spent the early months of the spring in class at Hofstra learning about South Africa as an emerging global economy. They studied the political, social, technological, environmental and legal factors facing small businesses, and were then grouped into teams that would meet with local entrepreneurs to help develop practical solutions to business problems in areas such as marketing, production, finance, accounting and human resources. Then, they put those skills into practice.

“Our thought with developing this course was to give our students two things; first, a chance to do experiential learning, to really get their hands dirty dealing with a real-life problem,” said Richard Hayes, PhD, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship, who taught the class and supervised the trip with Anne Hamby, PhD, assistant professor of marketing and international business. “Secondly, we wanted to give them global exposure. We live in a world where companies are becoming increasingly international, and we want our students to have a deeper understanding of doing business in another country.”

Meeting in South Africa

Entrepreneurship major Ariel Dure’17 launched his own business – a smartphone repair service housed in the Hofstra IdeaHUb – while he was still a student.

“One of the reasons I wanted to take this class is because I currently have a business on campus and I wanted to see what it’s like conducting business in a developing country,” he said.

Dure had never traveled further than the Caribbean before this trip. “I was able to get a different perspective of business, and seeing a country like South Africa for the first time was amazing,” he said. “It was humbling to see the sense of respect they had in their work habits.”

Visiting South Africa was also a longtime goal for Sunaina Batra’17, a marketing major who hopes to one day work in international nonprofits. “I had always planned on coming here someday to do service work, but when this opportunity came up to also gain some business experience, it was a dream come true.”

The students began the trip in Cape Town, one of South Africa’s capital cities. On the first night, they sampled a dinner menu of more than a dozen traditional African dishes such as Malawi chicken macadamia, Channa fish, cassava bread, Congolese spinach, and Soweto chakalaka, a popular vegetable relish dish.

A full-day tour of the city included views of the iconic Table Mountain, a cruise to Seal Island, and a visit to windy Cape of Good Hope, once thought to be the most southwestern point of the African continent. The group then flew to Johannesburg, where they toured the historic township of Soweto, and immersed themselves in learning about the country’s history of apartheid and about Nelson Mandela, who became the nation’s first black president after spending a quarter-century in prison for his opposition to the white nationalist regime.

“This is a real opportunity for Hofstra students to interact with students of another culture toward a shared goal.”

In 1948, Mandela was a young lawyer and activist with the African National Congress (ANC) liberation movement when the National Party came to power and instituted apartheid, a government system of racial segregation that favored the white minority in South Africa and forcibly resettled millions of blacks. Mandela dedicated himself to the fight against apartheid for the rest of his life, despite numerous arrests for civil disobedience and a 27-year prison imprisonment.

After mounting international pressure and years of domestic revolt and bloodshed, Mandela was released in 1990 by President F.W. de Klerk, and the two worked to peacefully end segregation laws and move the country toward democracy. For their efforts, Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. The following year, in the country’s first multiracial democratic election, Mandela was elected president.

Hofstra students visited Mandela House, the humble one-story brick home in Soweto where he lived before his imprisonment, as well as the Apartheid Museum, which also honors his work.

“When Mandela died a few years ago, a lot of people posted remembrances but it wasn't until I got here that I fully understood his significant contributions to building up this country,” Coe said. “He showed that there are solutions to problems even when they seem impossible to overcome."

Getting to see the country firsthand over several days helped put all that the students had learned in class into perspective for their consulting assignments. By day five, the group headed to the University of Johannesburg (UJ), where they teamed up with local students from the school’s Enactus entrepreneurship club to work collaboratively on business plans for eight different startups in industries such as health and wellness, technology, waste management, retail, and economic development.

“This is a real opportunity for Hofstra students to interact with students of another culture toward a shared goal,” said Dr. Hamby. “It’s a chance to feel out some of the assumptions they might have about this work environment and learn how to work in interactive teams, cross-functional teams and also international teams. Once they are back in the United States, our students will continue working with the UJ students to deliver the solutions they’ve developed to the business owners.”

Cape of Good Horn


“This project will help me hone my skills and help me to think more ‘big picture’ in terms of finding the right opportunities.”

International business major Michael Cox’s team of three other Hofstra students and four UJ students met with Mapheu Pule, the entrepreneur behind Pheku Agri-bizz, a small company that makes healthful products and remedies from local natural resources such as the Moringa tree.

“Together we’re working on a marketing plan to supply materials such as brochures and flyers that will help the company be more successful in selling its products and promoting what they stand for,” Cox ’17 said. “The first thing we plan to do is some market research on things like the demographics of the company’s clientele, so we can get a better understanding of the business and how we can help it grow.”

An added benefit of the program is that students are engaged in community service learning, Dr. Hayes said.

“The Zarb School is about preparing global leaders, and this is a classic example of preparing students to go out and make a difference and lead and transform business and also transform society,” he said. “They’re working with startups that don’t have access to expensive consulting resources. Those companies would likely have to pay thousands of rand, and now they’re able to have this world-class knowledge from our students applied to their businesses for free.”

Kaushik Sengupta, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Management & Entrepreneurship, says that that this innovative program has provided much needed experiential learning for their students. “Getting a chance to work with companies in an international setting over an extended period provided the students with valuable experience that is otherwise not possible to deliver,” he said. “Participating students expressed great satisfaction from the course and I have to thank Drs. Hayes and Hamby for taking the initiative in developing and delivering this course. Based on this experience, we are planning on multiple, additional experiential learning courses for our undergraduate and graduate students.”

Apartheid Museum


First-year MBA student Olivia Worley and three other graduate students worked with the heads of Madala and Associates, a consulting firm that provides strategic advisory and services in personnel development, research, and delivery assurance. The company requested the students’ help in identifying small- to medium-size companies that would be ideal for joint ventures.

“Personally and professionally, I want to become more entrepreneurial and move away from a traditional 9 to 5, and work globally from anywhere,” Worley said. “This project will help me hone my skills and help me to think more ‘big picture’ in terms of finding the right opportunities.”

While many students were awed by South Africa’s natural beauty and rich historic legacy, the experience also struck a personal chord for Worley.

“South Africa has everything from industrialization to beautiful beaches, but the experience in Soweto and the Apartheid Museum was one of my most memorable experiences,” she said. “As a kid growing up, one of my favorite movies was Sarafina! with Whoopi Goldberg (about the deadly 1976 Soweto uprising – a series of protests led by black schoolchildren), so to be in the place where that student massacre happened was very emotional and moving for me.”

“The Zarb School is about preparing global leaders, and this is a classic example of preparing students to go out and make a difference and lead and transform business and also transform society.”

Joyce Sibeko, a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg and the faculty advisor for the Enactus club, said the program helps her students see the world with fresh eyes.

“The University of Johannesburg is partnering with Hofstra University because we want to be sure our students are aware of what’s happening in the world through the sharing of ideas,” Sibeko said. “In South Africa, we need more and more entrepreneurs, so this program is about allowing our students to identify opportunities that they never knew existed. Someone coming from another country can help you identify a lot of things you can actually do. This collaboration helps elevate the ideas of both worlds.”
Hofstra in South Africa

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