In 2001 Gavin Chait of whythawk was invited as one of the judges in a large-scale, traditional, business plan competition. During the awards ceremony, at which prizes worth R 1 million were awarded, a previous entrant (who had not won) was given the opportunity to present his experiences. He declared, "It is impossible to make money unless you are already rich."
Gavin felt that, if this were true, then development in South Africa would be impossible. He approached Barrie Terreblanche of Big News, a newspaper aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, with an idea. Would it be possible to start a business with only R 1 000?
For many South Africans even that much is too much. Co-operative financing schemes (such as stokvels) may be used instead and these small amounts are within reach. The poor are not completely destitute. The idea was to start a handful of such businesses and then publish a diary of the experiences of consultants and entrants. It was immediately successful and several competitions were run over the next few years. The stories of some of the entrants are serialised in the TRC textbook.
In late 2004 Gavin was approached by the Department of Economic Development in the Western Cape. There was broad-based dissatisfaction with the government and the lack of progress in creating jobs at the bottom of the economy. An election was to be held soon and politicians were looking for something that would work at that level to release the pressure. Having supported previous TRC events they proposed a larger version. Would it be possible to start 1 000 businesses simultaneously?
Throughout 2005 Gavin worked to develop the methodology and systems necessary for such a large event. The product of that is here at Wikineur.