Students and staff at St Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) in Mwanza have always held the name Zion dear to their hearts.
At Zion, there is a secretarial bureau and a restaurant where both students and staff frequent to have their daily meals.
Twenty three-year-old Noel Shirima, a third-year Public Relations in Marketing student is the brain behind the two ventures.
Before he joined the university, Shirima had no idea he would one day be a successful entrepreneur. However, circumstances compelled him to scratch his head and think of a way that could help him make money to solve his financial problems.
“At one point I nearly got de-registered by the university administration for lack of tuition fee. The only solution to my problem was to start up a business on campus,” says Shirima.
Shirima is among many other students who manage their own businesses within university vicinities.
Some would do it from the comfort of their dormitories, while others hire places to run such businesses, depending on their wallet sizes.
Experience shows that the selling of airtime, flash disks, compact disks and A4 papers can be done in the dormitories, while things like hair dressing salons and food restaurants require a rented space.
Students from higher learning institutions find themselves serving two masters of studies and business at the same time, in a bid to supplement their upkeep while in college.
It has become common to see students marketing their businesses along the university corridors.
Once businesses are opened within campus premises, they are positively received by fellow college mates, deeming it their very own.
“When I opened a secretarial bureau and later a restaurant, I had not expected so many customers that I get on a daily basis,” says Shirima.
Shirima had to open his own business ventures to raise money for his tuition fee and meet other college expenses.
“My family could not fully foot my academic fee, and that is how I got the idea of setting up my own business to survive,” Shirima says.
With just Sh 800,000 he borrowed from a friend, a laptop and a small printer, Shirima started up his business from one of the dormitories at SAUT.
Contrary to what he had expected, his room became a beehive of activity as students streamed in to have their assignments typed and printed.
“I had not expected that, and the truth remains that the business helped me a great deal in raising my tuition fee as I had not qualified for loan,” says Shirima.
When he moved to a much bigger space, business even blossomed where he began selling DVDs, CDs and flash disks.
He charges Sh 600 for typing a single page on an A4 paper while he prints it at Sh 100 per page. As for printing, Shirima’s charges are as low as Sh 50.
Deborah Shija Chongolo, a third year student attests to Shirima’s blossoming business.
“Many of us flock his secretarial bureau because his prices suit us, it is unlike at other shops in town where their charges are beyond our reach,” she says.
Students are not the only beneficiaries of the services, for the academic staff at Saut also frequent Zion Classic Stationery for services.
Assured of earning Sh 30,000 a day from the secretarial bureau, Shirima has now employed two people to assist him while he is in class.
He pays each Sh 140,000 a month. He sends his parents part of the profit he makes from his business.
“Raising Sh 1.4million as tuition fee for six semesters is not that easy. I will not close this business once I graduate and go back to Arusha, instead, I will look for someone to manage it on my behalf,” says the young entrepreneur.
In the southern highlands region of Iringa, Hellen Rumisha moves from one dormitory to the other, with a big plastic bag which contains second hand clothes.
The second year student at the University of Iringa peddles her franchise as a way of earning an income for her upkeep in college.
She is known within the campus such that whenever she goes missing even for a day, her customers will call her, inquiring to know the kind of clothes she has gone for.
“I have been doing this for two years now, whenever I don’t have any class, I get the bag and move around the dormitories selling the clothes,” she says.
Rumisha who sells mainly female clothes, says she is assured of taking anything from Sh 20,000 to 25,000 a day from the business.
“I save part of the money in my accounts, and the remaining I use to buy food,” she adds.
Though her parents send her money occasionally, the 23- year-old still saw the need of managing her own life, to show her parents that she could still fend for herself.
Her mother was against the idea at first fearing business would affect her studies.
According to Mr Karimu Dickson Meshack, a senior public relations officer with St John’s University of Tanzania in Dodoma, university students are allowed to do any sort of business within campus, provided they are legitimate businesses.
“Principally, a student is allowed to carry out any business anywhere within the university, but it has to be legal. I know of a student who used to sell us raw chicken meat, he was later retained by the university where he is now a lecturer,” says the university officer.
Mr Karimu adds that doing business on campus helps students to fend for themselves and at times even support them in paying school fees.
He, however warns that it becomes a problem if the business affects a student’s academic performance.
“If they get engrossed with business at the expense of their studies then this becomes a problem. As an administration we intervene and ask them to stop their businesses,” he clarifies.