19 August 2019 | Story Charlene Stanley | Photo Ayanda Makhanya
Entrepreneurship Intervarsity
Entrepreneurship Intervarsity finalists, far left, Christopher Rothman, and second from right, Grace Mthembu, with fellow Kovsie competitors Driaan-Lou Kemp, second from left, and Martin Clarke, far right, at the regional finals held at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein in early August 2019.

A natural heating and cooking system and liquid yeast in its purest form – used in the brewing of beer – form the basis of two innovative business ventures that have earned their inventors a place in the finals of this year’s Entrepreneurship Intervarsity.


Christopher Rothman is currently busy with his PhD in Biotechnology at the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the University of the Free State (UFS). He and a fellow student started the company LiquidCulture last year to make high-quality yeast for their own commercial brewery called Kraft Brewing Co. 

“We realised that because of our backgrounds as microbiologists, we could grow our own yeast, have a better quality product, and save some money while also expanding our choice of yeast strains to use. This quickly became more than a solution to our own problems, as other breweries were also interested in using our yeast. We then formed LiquidCulture and started supplying the industry,” says Christopher.

Organic Heat

Grace Mthembu’s inspiration for her eco-friendly, cost-effective heating and cooking device, came after reading about devastating fires in rural and informal settlements caused by cooking fires.

“I decided to investigate the cause of these fires and found that the majority of the households did not have access to electricity or they couldn’t afford it,” explains Grace.
Her invention is based on the traditional metal cylinder or “imbawula”, used by many households in informal settlements to cook or heat with wood or coal. What makes her invention different is that it has a water filtration interior system which makes it safer and ensures that the smoke produced during the heating of the sources does not get released into the home and the air in general.

Her invention has already earned her awards for best community development, best mechanical engineering and best rural development project in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, plus a gold medal and all-expenses-paid trip to represent South Africa at the London International Youth Science Fair.
She plans to establish a brand for the system with the name “Organic Heat”.

Student entrepreneurs showcased

The Entrepreneurship Intervarsity gives student entrepreneurs from across the country’s 26 public universities the opportunity to submit their innovative ideas as part of a competition supported by Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), in collaboration with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.
Both Christopher and Grace see it as a great honour to represent the UFS in the finals, which will be held in Johannesburg on 18 September 2019. 

“The intervarsity has been fun thus far and the quality of the competitors is really high. Luckily I like public speaking and I am really passionate about my company so pitching to the judges has been very comfortable for me so far,” says Christopher. 

“I’m not obsessed about winning,” says Grace. “I’m looking forward to networking and connecting and building relationships with potential investors. If I do happen to win, it will obviously be amazing and will provide me with a lot of exposure and bring opportunities.”

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