By Anu Subramaniam , CNN Written by

Oscar is looking at an empty betting shop, slipping a little tear into his eye. “It was terrible,” he says. “The shops were full and they would all just empty, and they just left us high and dry for a year and a half.”

Oscar went to Makina Ayuna, a travel auction company, for help after his ex-wife was evicted from the rented shop they used to run.

They issued a call for loaning and buying goods to fix up the shop. The problem is that over the two years that Oscar was at Makina Ayuna he had to pay off a debt of €10,000.

“That’s the problem when you are young and you have to pay off debts and you are a small business and you cannot get large amounts of money,” Oscar says.

Amanjit Kaur

Amanjit Kaur has a similar story. She says her father, who used to open shops for her in Peirce Island, Nova Scotia, was always forcing her to take out student loans to pay the rent.

“He said ‘you have to take this loan so you have to pay, you have to, you have to, you have to,'” she said.

For Kaur and other small business owners in Cape Town, business is not the bogeyman they say it is often made out to be.

Like Kaur’s father, most South African business owners have young children or have just returned to school or a full-time job.

Mixed messages

Makina Ayuna Executive Director Vusi Shepherd says that South African youth are bombarded with conflicting messages.

“South African youth gets this double message,” he says. “You know you cannot become entrepreneurs, even though you were born here. You have to be a public sector worker or a career person, a professional.

“Well what I will tell you is that you are born here. The conversation needs to come into this school system, and that’s what we have been struggling with.”

Some businesses are beginning to head that way. Cari Arnett, owner of Craftonology, which rents out all-inclusive holiday experiences, says its business model is based on both the traditional and the ‘new’ South African youth demographic.

“We give tour experiences to the youth that now I think every company is starting to look at as a part of the transition,” she says.

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