They are dispelling the belief that friendship and business do not mix

Published On: 2 September 2019|

Much against the common belief that doing business with family or friends is a recipe for failure, Penang Shirindza and his childhood friend, Dean Mokoena, have extended their friendship to business and founded Urban Play.

Penang Shirindza receives his prize for winning in Category One, from Ms Yogavelli Nambiar, CEO, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and one of the main supporters of the Intervarsity Competition.

Urban Play is the digital advertising business through which Shirindza won in Category One of the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition finals in September. Category One represented the Best Innovative Business idea. He won a R10,000 prize which he intends to plough into the business. Shirindza is studying for a BCom in Information Systems and Economics at Rhodes University, whereas Dean Mokoena is pursuing a BTech in Human Resources management at the University of Johannesburg.

Born in Tzaneen, in the Limpopo province, Shirindza explains that “Dean and I met in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. We both went to the same pre-primary school and have been friends ever since. It made sense to start the business together. We knew each other well, and, most importantly – trusted each other.”

He believes that the base of any relationship, and a business one at that, is trust. “One does business with people one trusts. Customers also return because of the level of trust they feel in a business, service or product.”

Urban Play, still in development, aims to use high-definition screens mounted in taxis and buses to provide in-transit digital marketing. “Buses are a popular mode of transport in Nelspruit. Not a day goes by when there is not one in sight.” Seeing a business opportunity on this platform, Shirindza says he phoned Dean one day, broaching this idea to do something on the buses. Even though they were not too sure, in the beginning, about the route that their business was going to take, “what we were certain of was that people get bored on lengthy bus trips. We had to do something about it – perhaps give them a different experience while providing a service and profiting from it all.”

Dean Mokoena, right, got to share the glory of Urban Play’s win at the Intervarsity Competition finals.

Shirindza says having ridden on buses for a good part of his upbringing, commuters’ problems and concerns, including boredom while on long-distance trips, were not foreign to him. The idea of Urban Play was born from this conversation. “We chose a name that would describe the vision of the business: ‘Urban’ suggests portraying urban environments, while ‘play’ connotes content to be played and watched.”

In 2018, Shirindza entered the Black Management Forum Business Pitch competition hosted at Rhodes University to encourage entrepreneurship in students. “I emerged a runner-up in that competition. Though gutted by the result, I was happy with the lessons learnt. Not even the prize money compared, in value, to the learnings.” From that exposure, he and his partner decided to add a social responsibility element to their business plan. He says he also worked on his presentation skills to become more persuasive and convincing. “I learned that potential investors listen out for the ‘why’ in your business; the ‘why’ is what sets you apart from every other entity out there.”

Rhodes University has been immensely supportive

He got a lot more, by way of support, from his institution. Dr Tshidi Mohapeloa, who teaches entrepreneurship and coordinates the Post Graduate Diploma in Enterprise Management at Rhodes University, was present at the two-day competition finals in Gauteng, in support of Shirindza. “Dr Mohapeloa helped me a lot in preparing for all the rounds I participated in, literally holding my hand every step of the way. She helped me get pitch-ready by ensuring that I say the right things and submit appropriate information. She also played cheerleader. Without her help I would not have performed the way I did.”

Shirindza says Rhodes University is doing her bit in building a culture of entrepreneurship. With assistance from EDHE (the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education) Programme, they recently completed their Student Entrepreneurship Week for 2019. The one-week campaign entails hosting in-house programmes at individual universities and at some vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, in partnership with business, industry and non-profit organisations. Institutions, for their part, focus on supporting and equipping potential studentpreneurs in taking practical steps towards starting sustainable and scalable businesses.

In their SEW programme for 2019, Shirindza says Rhodes University hosted Ms Johanna Mukoki, winner of Ernest & Young World Entrepreneur-2012 for Southern Africa, who spoke on Branding to attract opportunities in entrepreneurship. “From her talk, my biggest lesson was that branding is what sets an enterprise apart.” They have since applied branding elements to their business plan. “When working on the business, we’ve focused on building an empire and a brand. This means we are aware that branding has to be an integral part of everything we do.”

Of the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition, Shirindza says “it is a great initiative. It has exposed us to what is out there. In the midst of it all, you get to see your true potential as a student entrepreneur.” In fact, the exposure has been so much that Urban Play has now developed beyond just a business idea.

Funding needed to get Urban Play off the ground

The networking that Shirindza got exposed to, through the competition, has seen him engaging numerous stakeholders on different aspects of the business. “We are, however, particularly in need of funding and mentorship and, to that end, would welcome additional industry and potential investor engagements.” They may be reached via email: or via Shirindza’s mobile on 0721222982.

Regarding the future, Shirindza plans to enrol for an Honours degree in Information Systems in 2020, on completion of which he intends focusing on the business. Drawing from all his experiences, he has only one thing to say: “I would advise my peers to get involved in the Intervarsity Competition!”

Shirindza has big plans to focus on Urban Play full-time, on completion of his studies at the end of 2020. He says he needs all the help he can get by way of funding, and mentorship.

These budding business partners can be followed on Instagram: @penang_11 and @deanmokoena respectively.

The Writer, Linda Lindani, was a Media and Marketing Consultant to the EDHE Programme during the final leg of the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition in 2019.