Social Innovation Awards

NTUTHUKO SHEZI - GRASSBEEF BY LIVESTOCK WEALTH

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Growing up, Ntuthuko stayed with his grandparents who had a few cows which were the bedrock of the family finances and each year they sold a cow which payed for his mother’s university education. It was during his childhood that Ntuthuko realised what an important role the cows played in his family and the historical power they held in the African financial system. He saw a gap in the market and he thought of how he could re-invent cattle ownership in a digital age. It was from this realisation that GrassBeef by Livestock Wealth was born.

GrassBeef by Livestock Wealth is a shared farming service that buys, cares for and sells free-range, grass-fed beef. The business purchases young calves from communal farm lands and transports them to their commercial farm, where the animals are cared for and nurtured. They are then resold, but remain at the GrassBeef farm where they are looked after on behalf on their new owners for a small monthly fee.

This farming technique provides a reliable source of income to herdsmen, who are responsible for the cattle’s care and communal farmers, from which the cattle are sourced, while allowing those who don’t have access to land to own their own cattle and produce healthy, organic, hormone free beef. The ownership period of the cow could either be over six, twelve or twenty- four months term with an option to re-invest, this method is very similar to a fixed bank deposit.

“GrassBeef is a short hand name for grass-fed beef. These cows are allowed to grow naturally without the use of artificial growth stimulants. GrassBeef is the ethical alternative to beef production where cattle are sourced from farmers who need a market and then raised in humane facilities until they are ready to market as beef,” shares Ntuthuko.

Last year, at the Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards, Ntuthuko was the overall winner for the Social Innovation Award and won R1.3 million to further develop his business. He shares that when he was announced as the winner, he was overwhelmed with excitement and could not believe that it was his name that had just been announced.

“I think the pictures tell the story better. I waved the award in the air oblivious to the lighting fixture directly above me. It made a lovely chiming sound as I screamed for joy in the moment. Luckily nothing broke, but had anything broke I would have been able to pay it from my winnings”, says Ntuthuko as he reminisces about the moment.

Looking back on his journey and how he started his business, Ntuthuko shares that he can only feel a sense of pride and joy when he looks at how much his business has grown. “I sometimes just stand in the farms and look at the cattle roaming around, and I can’t believe that it is all me”, he says. He further explains he believes that the SAB Foundation played a major role in the growth of his business. “I don’t think I would be where I am now, if it wasn’t for the funding and business support I received from the foundation. Before the programme I had 600 cows under management, I now have 1 600 cows within twelve months” he explains.

Ntuthuko further shares that the SAB Foundation not only assisted with funding but it also helped shape him as an entrepreneur. He claims to have a better understanding of how to handle his business administration and how to persevere through the most difficult times in business. He explains that he is forever grateful to the SAB Foundation for making him part of the family. Through the workshops he attended, he was able to learn more about setting processes and procedures in place, something he was never really good at before.

With the funding, he received from the Social Innovation Awards Ntuthuko bought a new cattle truck which has assisted enormously with transporting the cows and saved him a lot of time and money. He also hired more staff members including an in – house development team which has assisted in developing web platforms. Previously he had to outsource these services at a great expense to the business. Prior to winning the award he only had six employees however, he now has 17 people providing a valuable share of income within his community.

He admits that it has taken time for his business to grow but he is glad he never gave up on himself and his dream. He advises anyone who has a dream of starting their own business to find their passion and follow it in order to start a successful business. “Finding your passion means finding a societal problem that makes you want to address and make you with itch with resolving it.  That itch is the fuel that will drive you until your business becomes profitable and beyond” says Ntuthuko.

In conclusion, Ntuthuko shares that he has bigger plans for his business and he is currently working very hard to achieve them, in three – five years’ time, Ntuthuko envisions his business to have expanded into at least 10 African countries and managing 100 000 cows.

NHLANHLA NDLOVU - HUSTLENOMICS

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Having recently won the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award, 2019 is set to be a good year for Sowetan entrepreneur Nhlanhla Ndlovu and his innovative affordable housing business, Hustlenomics.

 “Hustlenomics is a for profit impact driven social enterprise that focusses on creating opportunities for women and youth by training them to replace informal backyard shacks with durable structures using alternative building technology,” explains Nhlanhla.

The business focusses on providing formal buildings for low income households who cannot get access to traditional home financing. Once the formal structures are completed, Hustlenomics splits the rental income with the land owner until construction costs have been recuperated, after which full ownership is handed over.

“In this way, we are able to create sustainable income for the households, while creating affordable rental accommodation for low income earners,” explains Nhlanhla. 

Nhlanhla also provides valuable employment opportunities to vulnerable members of his community, training them to build houses using sustainable construction methods.

“We train women in our local community by teaching them how to manufacture sustainable bricks using sand and 10% cement. This method both costs less and is three times faster to manufacture. We also teach them to build sustainable houses using those bricks,” he says.

Last year, Nhlanhla entered the SAB Foundation’s Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards which rewards social innovators whose businesses or products assist in the creation of a better lives and a more prosperous nation.

According to Nhlanhla, he plans on using his winnings to purchase a brick making machine that can produce up to 4 500 bricks a day. He also wants to purchase a truck for his business, which will help him transport his bricks and other sustainable materials and speed up his production capabilities. These acquisitions will help Nhlanhla reach his ambitious business goals which include employing up to 50 women and youth and building up to three new houses a month, within the next three years.

When asked how he felt when he won the award, Nhlanhla said, “it was a very humbling experience because I didn’t really think I’d win. I was excited and shocked but also extremely relieved.”

As well as funding the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards provide tailored business support. Nhlanhla intends on using the opportunity to develop and refine his business model as well as develop business management systems like HR and financial management.

SERGE RAEMAEKERS - ABALOBI

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Abalobi was co-founded by Serge Raemakers, Abongile Ngqongwa and Nicolaas Waldeck in 2015, with the aim to improve fisheries management, the lives of small-scale fishers and to create a social enterprise agency for them.

Abalobi is a mobile app suite and non-profit programme which is aimed at social justice and poverty alleviation in the small-scale fisheries chain. We took some time to chat to one of the founders, Serge Raemaekers to gain more insight.

The Abalobi app is currently used by 271 small-scale fishers along the South African coast and will soon be introduced to small- scale fishers in the Seychelles. When Abalobi was introduced, the majority of the users were very nervous about depending on an app to manage or possible income as this was something completely new to them. However, Abalobi had the answer to this.

“Through a co-design process and on-going training, the fishers have become accustomed to the app and have become more independent, operating this app with enthusiasm and confidence,” says Serge.

Abalobi is first and foremost a personal log book for fishers, allowing them to document their daily activities and highlighting areas where they can improve or better manage their finances. They are able to record their catch, income and expenses as well consulting their log book to evaluate their economic problems or potential. Through use of the Abalobi MARKETPLACE app, they also build traceable value chains,  connecting them with end- markets directly, consumers, retailers and restaurants directly, in a more economically empowered way.

Abalobi was founded 3,5 years ago, and the NP) is planning to grow to another scale over the next three years.

“Imagine a scenario where you go to a seafood restaurant and order a seafood meal. You are now able to scan a QR code that will give you the opportunity to see where your food is coming from, who caught the fish and will tell you a story about your food. This connects the consumer to the fishers and vice versa,” says Serge.

He goes on to explain that the biggest accomplishment since Abalobi was founded is seeing the sense of pride and independence that all fishers have gained.

“This is something extraordinary to watch, the fishers are completely in charge of their careers and their income. They are able to provide for themselves and families and step by step improve their living conditions”, says Serge.

Even though Abalobi has developed, growing its userbase over the years, the road to where they are now wasn’t an easy one. The biggest challenge for them when they started was acquiring financial assistance. Serge shares that everyone wants a piece of what is essentially a community-driven programme. They believed in their vision and kept writing proposals.

Last year was one of the greatest years for Abalobi as they won the development award at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards. After winning they noticed that their organization was perceived as being more credible, and people started recognising them. They subsequently obtained more grant funding from elsewhere to scale their operations and impact.

Through this funding they were also able to buy a bakkie which is allowing them to travel more and access more fishing communities. They have also been able to invest in more branding and marketing and this has contributed to them being more visible and recognised in the fishing sector.

Serge encourages everyone who has a dream of starting their own business to go for it, but cautions them not to expect everything to go as planned. His top tips for any startups are:

  • Perseverance, don’t give up regardless challenges.

  • Find a narrative, have a story to tell.

  • Appeal to the larger audience.

  • Be genuine, stand out from others.

  • Attend many social entrepreneur workshops and events.

  • Don’t take rejection personally, rather see it as a learning curve.

  • Keep pushing until something comes up.

LINDOKUHLE DUMA - IZIKO STOVES

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Lindokuhle Duma is the founder of a Durban-based company, Iziko Stoves. Iziko Stoves are innovative cooking and braai stoves that utilize wood, coal or any biomass materials as a cooking fuel. Lindokuhle started his business straight after finishing his B.Com Accounting Degree when he identified a substance abuse problem in his community.

Iziko Stoves was founded with the main purpose of assisting substance abusers to re-integrate into society after completing a rehabilitation programme. At Iziko Stoves, ex- abusers are guided through the process of making stoves, how to be job ready after completing their course and how they can even start their own business down the road.

After a month of training, they receive potjie stoves and braai stands, an order form/shirt and have to sell these products in their communities in order to assist them in receiving income.

In the two years that Iziko Stoves has been in business, they have assisted 211 substance users and 179 have managed to completely change their lives.

Lindokuhle’s journey to establishing his business was not an easy one; along the way he had to make sacrifices and go through a year without any source of income. Lindokuhle explains that he ran out of petrol more than 14 times, got stuck on freeways and also had endless dilemmas with his landlord. However, through it all he pushed on and stayed motivated because he knew his business would be a success. Through perseverance, determination and hard work he was able to move past all these obstacles and now runs a business he is proud of.

A mere two years after establishing his business, Lindokuhle has grown as an individual and also as an entrepreneur and now looks back on his journey with a smile. In 2017, he was chosen to be part of the SABC programme “Brand South Africa Play Your Part” and last October, Iziko Stoves won R150 000 funding and R140 000 in business mentoring and support at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards. Through this funding, Lindokuhle has been able to develop and grow his business enormously. He has improved the quality of products, invested in better equipment and machinery and employed more staff members. This March, he has been selected represent South Africa and travel to Israel to share ideas with social entrepreneurs in that country.

Lindokuhle encourages anyone who dreams of starting their own business to follow their heart, but believes that they must have a strong desire to succeed and not give up easily. His words of advice to people who want to start their own businesses are:

  • Define your values and protect your identity. Your identity carries your values, it carries your reputation and tells your story, that is your biggest asset.

  • Do a lot of planning, it will help you cut down on risks and will help you map out the direction you want to take.

  • Find a team, because you cannot do everything on your own.

His five top tips for start-up and established entrepreneurs to keep a business running are:

  • Cash flow: ensure there is cash coming in regularly, lack of cash suffocates growth.

  • Consistently communicate the vision and culture of the company to your team.

  • Invest in branding and marketing

  • Develop people, you can’t do everything on your own.

  • Always have a plan.

“There is a beautiful parallel between the stoves and the substance abusers; society views the substance abusers as junkies and many refer to them as trash, much like the geysers and gas cylinders from scrapyards we recycle to create our beautiful products. There is a parallel between the substance abuser and leaking geyser that have both been ‘written off’ by society, but we invest in both to create value and a new image” – Lindokuhle Duma, Iziko Stoves.

NOKWHETHU KHOJANE AND LAUREN DRAKE - LAKHENI

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Lakheni is a buying platform that amplifies the power of communities through collective buying. Groups and communities – whether neighbours, members of a stokvol or a church congregation – can group together as a buying group, allowing them to buy directly from suppliers, saving money.Nokwhethu Khojane and Lauren Drake are the dynamic and passionate duo behind Lakheni, having met whilst studying together at UCT. Coming from different backgrounds, they came together with the love and passion for education and community service. 

Lakheni encourages communities to form buying groups, which allows them to access to cheaper goods, as goods can be sourced directly from suppliers in bulk. Groups can then order through Lakheni, who will also deliver the goods.

Lakheni addresses the need for a company to deliver monthly groceries into the township, with a focus on crèches. Many people struggle with space and capacity to transport the goods once bought, especially the majority who are making use of public transport such as buses and taxis.

Since their involvement with the SAB Foundation, Lakheni has now grown the staff complement to a workforce of four, bringing on a well-experienced driver, as well as a Sales and Marketing Manager.

The funding also allowed Lakheni to build a website, develop an app which potential and current consumers use to order the service, as well as purchase a Lakheni bakkie which is used for transporting the groceries. 

The result is that the business has grown a tremendous amount, allowing it to serve even more people, and its reputation continues to grow through word-of-mouth recommendation.

Nokwhethu talks about how the business’ success continues to make her proud: “I love to see the “Wow” expressions on our customers’ consumers faces when the groceries arrive to feed their families. It is a huge compliment knowing that our customers endorse us, and the strength of the relationship we hold with members of the community formed as a result of Lakheni’s existence.”

Read more about Lakheni here: http://www.fin24.com/Entrepreneurs/Opinions-and-Analysis/sas-social-enterprises-falling-through-the-cracks-20170213

THULILE MTHETWA - MEMEZA COMMUNITY SAFETY

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MeMeZa Shout Crime Prevention provides affordable and innovative Connected Community Safety Technology, with a special focus on the most vulnerable people in society.

Having seen her family and neighbours be a victim of crime over and over again, Thui Mthetwe decided to take action. With her background in Software Development, Thuli developed MeMeZa, a low-cost alarm system which directly alerts the community and police when a crime of any form takes place. The system is linked to many Community Policing Forums as well as the SAPS.

The business also provides education and awareness surrounding crime prevention. The business was granted funding by the SAB Foundation in 2012, and allowed for pilot models to be designed which would be taken to various policing forums to pitch for inclusion.

Without this funding, Thuli would never have been able to link to the crucial forms such as the SAPS. The business expanded rapidly, and since the funding, MeMeZa has been featured in the press over 200 times.

MeMeZa customers are private individuals who have picked up brochures or heard about the company through word-of-mouth. Over 10 000 people in Diepsloot have the alarm system in-house. Since these activations, statistics have shown a 9% decrease in crime and 26% less cases of sexual violence.

Thuli is seen as a leader in her community and give regular motivational talks.

BRIAN MAKWAIBA AND OSCAR MONAMA - VULEKA MOBILE APP

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I AM EMERGE is a creative agency founded by Brian Makwaiba and Oscar Monama. This agency comes up with creative concepts to enable access between township businesses and the bigger markets outside their horizons. It is with this idea in mind that in 2012, I AM SERGE developed their creative idea and founded the Vuleka Mobile App.

The Vuleka Mobile App is an app through which spaza shop traders place orders for fast moving consumer goods that Vuleka then delivers in bulk to their doorsteps. Bundling these orders together in bulk purchases enables Vuleka to obtain discounts, which are then passed on to the individual shop owners. The app is also linked to a virtual wallet payment system so that all payments are cashless.

Makwaiba and Monama started their business after seeing how traders in Alex struggled to buy their stock in bulk, spending time and money travelling to their suppliers and usually paying a higher price than necessary. The two founders started with just R3 000 in their pockets and initially struggled to make a profit because any income was used to purchase more stock for their traders.

Three years later, the business is thriving and expanded into other townships including, Thembisa and Soweto, and are now getting more orders than ever before. According to Makwaiba they receive orders of R3 000 per spaza shop on a weekly basis, which brings them an income of between R60 000 and R180 000 each month.

In 2017, Vuleka Mobile was awarded R150 000 at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards. Makwaiba claims that winning this prize has changed their lives for the better and being recognised by the SAB Foundation has boosted their status in the industry.

“Being part of the SAB Foundation programme has helped us scale into two other townships and we have increased our customer based almost three-fold. We have moved to a bigger warehousing space meaning we can carry more stock and can therefore service more spaza shops. Before the programme we only had three employees but we have now managed to grow to 13”, shared Makwaiba.

When I AM EMERGE was founded, they wanted to do more than just service spaza shops, they wanted to make an impact in the communities they serve. The business understands that their main customer base is the older market, most of whom are not technologically savvy. When they received complaints from clients who were struggling to operate the app and didn’t have smartphones, the founders decided to employ Field Service Agents (youth marketers) living in their areas of operation to take orders manually from the spaza shops and help to arrange deliveries.

The founders say that being part of the SAB Foundation was an amazing journey and that they will be forever grateful for the opportunity. Makwaiba shares that the SAB Foundation did not only assist them with funding but also equipped them with essential tools to help them grow their business. Through the workshops they attended they picked up entrepreneurial skills including financial management, which they had struggled with before the programme.

With the SAB Foundation funding they received, they have moved into a new warehousing space which acts as a central distribution centre for their goods into different communities. They also bought marketing material for their business and several computers for their staff members.

According to Makwaiba, starting a business is not an easy task, and is a stressful journey that requires hard work. However, he still believes it to be a worthwhile endeavour and says that people who have passion to start their own ventures should definitely go for it.

“Don’t be afraid to fail and experiment and do thorough research about the field you want to go into and seek guidance from mentors or people who have been on the same journey,” shares Makwaiba.

In the next three to five years, I AM EMERGE plans on expanding their business into even more areas. “I see us having expanded into the rest of the country and also into some countries in the rest of Africa. “I see us impacting many lives and growing informal businesses and lives in townships, and I also see the business expanding to other informal businesses apart from just spaza shops,” concludes Makwaiba.

AHLEY UYS - MEDICAL DIAGNOSTIC

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At the tender age of twenty-four Ashely Uys left his internship in industry to pursue the start of his own business. Challenges such as being taken seriously by investors made the get going difficult. That was five years ago.

Today, Ashley has been a judge for the SAB Foundation and has an employee count of thirty-five. It was through the Business Incubator in 2008 that Ashley became acquainted with the work of the SAB Foundation and through this award that he was able to purchase assets for manufacturing, improve cash flow and grow his business as a whole.

The majority of his consumers have made contact with the business through media exposure. The public relations exposure he received at events and competitions allowed him to boast business visibility and grow both consumer and potential consumer connections. The majority of his products are exported, and the demand for the offering is just increasing.

The malaria test kit was one of the first innovations which put Ashley on the medical map. He has a strong background in bio-technology and is passionate about the diagnostic industry possibilities. He saw the gap and was brave enough to put his might and efforts towards achieving his goal.

Ashley is proud of how the company has grown and flourished and is happy that the product performs so well. It is a technical dream when a product can display whether or not a treatment is working, and with the technology Ashley puts forward, the product can do just that.