Turning losses into a win: Two UP students score at Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education Intervarsity with new insurance business plan

Posted on December 23, 2020

Two University of Pretoria (UP) final-year students have won a national award for their innovative business idea – an insurance scheme concept that was inspired by their academic failures rather than successes.

Marco Booyse and Jacques Fourie, who have written the last exams for their BCom and BTown and Regional Planning degrees, respectively, walked off with the R20 000 Innovative Business Idea award at the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Intervarsity competition held in Johannesburg recently.

They also won an additional R10 000 for marketing their insurance scheme, Stu-D-sure (pronounced “study sure”). Fourie wrote the presentation that Booyse pitched, as only one person could present each entry to the panel of five judges. Twenty-eight finalists from 16 South African universities took part in the EDHE Intervarsity.

Booyse and Fourie came up with Stu-D-sure after they had both gone through the experience of failing a module. “It happens,” said Booyse. “We also know a lot of other people who have failed modules, and the struggles they have had to pay to repeat the courses.”

To address this problem, Stu-D-sure allows students to insure their study modules. If a student fails a module, the insurance pays the cost, or a portion, of the repeated module. If the student passes, they are rewarded in a way still to be finalised, but likely financial.

Said Fourie: “Stu-D-sure recognises the financial burden and stress experienced by students from disadvantaged communities, and the impact this has on further entrenching inequality in South Africa. Stu-D-sure envisions a brighter future for all students across South Africa and recognises that life can throw them curveballs, but it should never deprive a student of a prosperous future.” 

Because their business is in the concept phase, their calculations are still preliminary, but they have consulted actuaries to work out ways to determine the risk profile of each student, and each module. Stu-D-sure plans on charging between 2% and 3% of the cost of each module on a monthly basis, which works out to R80 a month for a R4 000 module.

And the rewards for passing an insured module? “The most attractive one would be to get cash back, but we don’t want to promise anything yet,” said Booyse, adding that one option was for money to be paid on completion of the degree.

Initial market research was positive. They approached the popular UP Instagram page tuks_facultyofmemes to post a questionnaire to see if there was any interest in their offering. The poll was extended to similar Instagram pages at other universities in South Africa, and the results bowled them over. “More than 4 000 students responded to that poll, and 60% were interested in this product and willing to pay up to R99 a month for it,” said Fourie.

How will Stu-D-sure help keep students motivated? To avoid them giving up a course because they know they are covered financially to repeat it – what Booyse explains is known as anti-selection in the insurance industry, for example, where people drive more recklessly because they know their car is insured – Stu-D-sure will pay out claims in accordance with how badly students fail. Those who are 10% or less short of passing, could get more cash back than those who fail by a larger margin.

One of the biggest challenges of getting this type of business off the ground is financing it – it costs R5 million to register as a micro-insurer. They aim, at least initially, to piggy-back on an existing insurance company, which is known as performing as a cell captive insurer, even though this does mean less profit.

Booyse says one of the best aspects of the EDHE Intervarsity was the opportunity it provided for networking. They have already been approached by funds keen to partner with them, and are both upbeat about the possibilities.

The two – who met as boarders at Menlo Park High and were rivals in the 800m at first — say even though they might not be full-time entrepreneurs right now, they have known that entrepreneurship would be their path in life since grade 9 when they read Richard Branson’s Screw it, Let’s Do It. And being at UP has helped them in their journey.

They heard about the EDHE Intervarsity on the University’s learning management system clickUP, where they were also able to register. TuksNovation, UP’s incubation hub, hosted the internal round of the competition online, and helped them with tips on how to improve their pitch and business plan. This ensured their success in the regional round, followed by the provincial round, which they won.

The Young Entrepreneur Network (YEN) on campus was also a big help, especially its WhatsApp group during lockdown. “The society definitely helped us to refine our concept, and we really enjoyed the experience. Because we are finishing our studies this year, we will become part of the YEN alumni and hope to keep on interacting with students,” said Booyse.

The EDHE Intervarsity, in its second year of existence, is a partnership between the Department of Higher Education and Training, and Universities South Africa (USAf), the umbrella body of South Africa’s 26 public universities.

Dr Norah Clarke, Director for Entrepreneurship at USAf, thanked UP for its support with its students’ “winning quest”, saying the organisation looks forward “to seeing next year’s promising UP studentpreneurs in the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021”.

She noted that Booyse, at 22, was the youngest finalist – Fourie turned 23 last month – and said she trusted “UP will continue to equip and support studentpreneurs and young business leaders of the future”.

UP Vice-Chancellor Professor Tawana Kupe said UP was proud of Booyse and Fourie, who have shown how students were able to take their personal circumstances, which at first glance might not appear to be ideal, and create an opportunity to benefit others. “These are the values we aspire to instil in our students, and Marco Booyse and Jacque Fourie are worthy role models and ambassadors for the University of Pretoria,” he said.

- Author Gillian Anstey

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