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Jaco Burger | A Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) success story

Source: Photo by Burst: https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-blur-business-commerce-374899

30 June 2022

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Hailing from a small town in the Northern Cape, South Africa’s largest and most sparsely populated province, Jaco Burger completed his undergraduate studies in Sports Science at Stellenbosch University (SU) and obtained a diploma in Personal Fitness Training. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, he started his first business in the high-performance and fitness industry soon after graduating. After selling, he joined partners to establish affordable, functional fitness studios across the country, which unfortunately failed. He calls this big learning curve his “streetwise MBA.”

He decided to enrol for an MBA at Stellenbosch Business School to connect the dots between his practical experience and an academic programme formalised through research and methodology. Jaco considers this decision a turning point in his personal and professional capacity and an opportunity to pivot towards start-up excellence as a career irrespective of industry.

As he did not meet the requirements for the MBA, he applied as an RPL candidate, which assesses and acknowledges prior work and life experiences. He was invited for an interview with the MBA head and the rest, as they say, is history. Since graduating in 2018, he has been part of the founding team of more than ten start-up ventures and grew a venture-building team from seven to 33 people in 15 months.

He says his MBA journey transformed how he views business, leadership and the integration between academia and industry towards building start-ups that are set up with the best possible chances of success.

Jaco supported 30 entrepreneurs during the most challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic when many small businesses folded. However, none of the entrepreneurs he coached had to close. In his current role as Strategic Commercial Projects at Innovus, a division of SU responsible for innovation and entrepreneurial support and development, he aims to establish innovative ventures that speak to real-world challenges. He also continues to support entrepreneurs in a mentoring capacity.

His road at SU comes to an end in June 2022 as he will be continuing his career progress in the Canadian innovation and start-up ecosystem. His core focus will be to channel his innovation and start-up experience toward supporting and assisting tech start-ups throughout the entrepreneurial journey.  “This is a step in my career to expand my knowledge and experience internationally while building potential strategic partnerships with the South African start-up and innovation ecosystem,” he says.

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