A GROUP of 24 young entrepreneurs recently stepped into the world of business, ready to launch their careers as operators of their own spaza shops after graduating from a rigorous training programme provided by Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA).The graduates each received a fully stocked spaza shop housed in a container, courtesy of CCBSA, together with partners, the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), the Department of Small Business Development and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM).Graduates who make a success of their business will be in a position to take over ownership of the spaza store and go on to bigger things.CCBSA’s Youth Empowerment Programme kick-starts youthful entrepreneurs in the hope that they will pay it forward by creating even more opportunities from the opportunity they have received. Known as ‘Bizniz in a Box’, this innovative programme develops prospective spaza owners, operating out of containers, to serve their communities and employ local staff.It starts with a recruitment drive in the identified community and the applicants then undergo a rigorous selection process, including numeracy and literacy tests and business skills.Shortlisted candidates are subjected to a tough-love boot camp of practical selling, business pitching and marketing over the course of a month.The aspiring youth entrepreneurs are allocated containers and run these as spazas for the next two months. During this time, they go all out, using their own initiative to market their new businesses to the community to build up a client base and create a market for their wares.At the end of this process, the containers are handed over to the successful graduates to run their own businesses.Speaking at the graduation ceremony, CCBSA’s managing director Velaphi Ratshefola said, “Our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has placed the youth unemployment crisis at the top of the list of issues that we as a nation must address. “Therefore, CCBSA would like to be part of the solution. “I want to see these young entrepreneurs being included in economic growth,” Ratshefola said. NMBM Executive Mayor Athol Trollip said the initiative augurs well for the Bay, as it speaks to the need for innovative interventions in dealing with the current impasse, the high youth unemployment in the Metro. “As the municipality, we are happy to be aligned with such an exciting project which is geared towards uplifting our young through economic participation,” Trollip said. Deputy Minister of Small Business Development Cassel Mathale said they are pleased to have partnered with a forward-looking company that cares for the youth. “The young people are talented and ready to become entrepreneurs. “To reap the benefits of this talent, we have to work together as a society to provide our young people with the opportunities to create a better future for themselves. “Public-private partnerships, like this one, between CCBSA and the Department of Small Business Development are the key to unlocking the potential of our youth,” Mathale said.