Environmental advocate breaks ground through innovation


DURBAN – Environmental advocate and entrepreneur Trever Sanele Colvelle, from Elandskop near Pietermaritzburg developed a keen interest for environmental conservation during his tertiary studies.

Immensely inspired by one of his university professors, M.J. Savage, whose laboratory is completely solar powered, Colvelle decided to pursue ways to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint and lead a green lifestyle.

He gave much attention towards curbing the occurrence of shack fires and deaths around townships as a result of illegal connections or “Izinyoka”. Alleviating the plight of rural school children who travel long distances to fetch firewood for cooking and heating rooms instead of concentrating on their studies is another focus area of Colvelle.

Although Colvelle’s business is fairly new, he remains highly optimistic about the future of Tech-Note. “I am an innovative person by nature. I like being able to make something out of nothing and that gives me hope that my business will withstand the test of time. It is not what you do that is important but how you do it,” said Colvelle.

Colvelle’s invention – Solar Nexus – is a foldable solar charging device that can power a heater, radio, TV and lights in your home, thereby eliminating the need for fuel power generators, paraffin stoves, gas stoves and open fire cooking which can be hazardous.

The waterproof device opens up into the shape and size of a golf umbrella which can be used for protection from adverse weather conditions and simultaneously to charge your power bank as a ready-to-use power supply by the time you arrive home, thus enabling cellphones, tablets and digital cameras to be charged on the go.

The 26-year-old graduated last year with a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Environmental Management from the University of KwaZulu Natal.

During the call for entries earlier this year, Colvelle put his name down for the Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Business Competition. The programme, spearheaded by Ithala Development Finance Corporation, attracts youth with innovative and sustainable business concepts and provides incubation and start-up in their journey to becoming seasoned entrepreneurs.

“This is the second year I entered my idea into the competition. I must admit, I am glad I did not make it the previous year as this gave me time to fine tune my idea,” said Colvelle.

He was declared the overall winner in this year’s competition and walked away with R250 000 worth of business support, which includes:

  • Intellectual property protection
  • Working capital
  • Product development
  • Mentorship
  • Marketing expenses


“For as long as I can remember, Ithala has been firmly focused on the development of SMME’s in and around KZN which provides assurance that I am in safe hands and gives me confidence to take my business to new heights,” added Colvelle.

Over the past three years, Ithala has disbursed R878 600 000 to nearly 700 businesses, resulting in over 8 000 jobs being created. Of these, 28% are women-owned businesses and young people comprise nearly 40% of those on Ithala’s loan book.

Driving SMME and cooperative development over the next five years in line with its mandate to promote development is one of the key strategic goals of Ithala.

The “Imbokodo Iyazenzela” Women in SMMEs Awards and Siyasebenza are two additional flagship programmes of Ithala which accelerate SMME development and empower women and youth in historically marginalised communities.

“Imbokodo Iyazenzela” or “Women doing it for themselves” was piloted in 2015 and has since reached over 3000 women in 16 towns. The programme provides an enabling environment for female entrepreneurs in KZN who require access to finance and the resources to grow and seeks to improve the long-term sustainability of women-owned SMME’s in the province.

“Siyasebenza” which means “We are working” is a business development programme aimed at educating existing and emerging entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas on ways to build and grow sustainable businesses. Over 2 000 SMMEs in all 11 districts of KZN have been reached to date. Ithala’s Business Finance portfolio caters for small and medium industrial and commercial businesses as well as agricultural enterprises, tourism ventures, co-operatives and building contractors.