Favorite quote: “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do” – Steve Jobs
What is your story (tell us about you)?
A young queer social entrepreneur pioneering disruptive innovation in Southern Africa. I am currently immersing myself into a Master’s degree specialising in inclusive innovation at The University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business whilst running an impact investing firm – Push Local Ventures (PLV). At PLV, we manage a range of sustainable development and impact investing portfolios in Southern Africa that are aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our leadership re-invests foreign direct capital, CSI and local corporate capital into youth and women owned SMME’s, social enterprises as well as rural and township communities that have high return on investments along a triple bottom line scale (profit, social and environmental impact). As a collaborative network platform of local SME’s, our mandate is to localise Southern African economies and capitalise on the emerging market potentials.
My education background is within the humanities field having completed my Bachelor of Social Sciences undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town in 2016. During my undergrad years, I formed part of the leadership of UCT SHAWCO which is the largest student driven organisation on the continent championing inclusive health and education service delivery to under-resourced communities. After graduating, I spent the first half of my career lecturing and designing global service learning programmes for universities across 5 continents. The exposure to global education management and international trade through my studies and career journey gave me access to a wealth of social capital as well as investors that underpin their value systems in servant leadership that created the platform for PLV to emerge as a brand.
I am the product of servant leaders that invested in my development to be able to achieve all that I have to date. These life mentors and friends have instilled the value of servant leadership in me which has encouraged me to a number of portfolios that support the development of others. In my journey as a young social entrepreneur and academic, I have served on a number of local and global leadership structures including The United Nations World Merit, Oxford Said Business School as well as Forbes 30 under 30 spearheading transformation and sustainability.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to start?
Push Local Ventures was established in 2018 and originally remained dormant for a number of months until the initial ideation phase was completed. We started out as a micro social business in Cape Town that was geared towards activating local entrepreneurs and creatives in under-resourced communities through enterprise development/incubation and creative economy based activation events. Having spent most of my youth involved in rural and township community development, I recognised the gaps and needs within the informal economy that hindered inclusive economic development despite having a large supply base of products/services.
Having the belief that it is our responsibility as young people to be agents of change, I made it my responsibility to mobilise the spaces of privilege that I had access to in support of redistributing and using our wealth, skills as well as resources into township/rural ventures that would be able to maintain a return on capital investments whilst improving the wellbeing of the community we invest in by creating localised employment and increasing formal sector demand for their locally products products/services.
What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business?
• Economically activate 10 million people in Khoi and San descendent communities in Southern Africa through training, employment or venture incubation
• Capitalise on cultural and historical wealth of the indigenous communities and their practices allowing the ancient knowledge to lead our sustainability strategies
• Disseminate a culture of social entrepreneurship and inclusive innovation
• Ensure intersectional co-creation of ventures and learning maintaining cross-cultural, generational and gender collaborations
• Expand public-private partnership agreements to support the localisation of economies with a focus on sectors with the highest GDP trajectory
• Re-invest foreign direct capital and corporate social investments into rural and township SME’s/startups that are aligned to sectors with high a potential for return on investments
• Net zero carbon facilities and development models
What challenges did you face? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?
• Limited public sector engagement unless there is an agreement to sign under one party, collaborative efforts with public sector with the inclusion of a number of political parties/departments has remained limited except for where we are able to offer a service that assists the municipality in achieving a specific goal in a public-private partnership
• Hesitation by corporates to invest in rural/township businesses that don’t reflect the professionalism of a formal sector business such as having a website, financial audits or a business plan
• Managing the array of diversity in relation to literacy levels, gender and religious norms etc.
Managing processes of inclusion in the development of strategy/decision making remains one of our biggest obstacles as PLV houses representation of polar opposite individuals that need to come to a collective consensus despite their diverse education or religious backgrounds, past trauma and class representation.
How did you learn about your market?
I learnt about the township economy market through my consulting for global universities and corporates who continuously shared their appreciation for the opportunity that they had to contribute their skills, capital and networks towards the development of SME’s whilst participating in service learning programmes. Township SME’s that we placed our students with shared similar positive sentiments that arose out of the experiential learning process which resulted in their businesses improving into high performance entities. Being accepted into my Master’s degree based on the PLV business model, I was given the opportunity to roll out a research process unpacking township and rural economies for my Masters dissertation. The mixed learning using practical and theory content has allowed me to shape the vision into a venture that is grounded in research and real life experiences.
How do you go about networking and building partnerships?
Having served as a leader on a number of local/global platforms and having worked across 5 continents as a young person gave me the benefits of social capital along the journey which played a big role in giving PLV access to the pioneers on the continent as well as multi nationals that support youth/women owned ventures. In addition to my own social capital network, we have a team of experts that serve on our managing board who have strong global networks geared towards impact investing as well as sustainability practices that build inclusive economies. Most of our partners approach us based on word of mouth from our social media platforms or based on our network referrals which means we spend very little of our time focused on attending networking events but rather ensuring that we have meaningful and deep relationships with the partners we have recruited within our main stakeholder database.
Our understanding is that PLV and partners collectively hold the responsibility of delivering on a profitable high impact vision. All our partners are motivated by making profit for a purpose whilst underpinning the power of collective action.
Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped?
I have had many mentors in my journey and this has been one of my greatest factors for success. Having been raised in a business orientated family, my first mentors were my grandparents teaching me within the family business model as well as guiding me on international trade and cultures as a young person. In my university years, SHAWCO student leaders became peer mentors as we journeyed on our leadership paths together. Post my undergraduate studies, the Director of SHAWCO at the time, Gavin Joachim’s became a pivotal person in my journey and he has become a lifelong friend who continues to walk alongside me in all things personal, spiritual and business orientated.
Mentors and coaches are incumbent to an entrepreneur’s success not just for emotional and mental support, but also for us to be able to reflect/filter our thinking through a number of perspectives.
What is your perspective on the South African entrepreneurial landscape?
The greatest potential for growth currently rests in social entrepreneurship ventures as investors are looking for concepts that are going to market or are in the market that can increase revenue whilst making a difference to the eco-system supporting the UN SDG’s or activating buying power in untapped markets. The growing localisation of the economy is resulting in a demand for locally based products and services if it can produce social and environmental value simultaneously. There are a number of challenges that SME’s face mainly limited capital injection, access to sustainable enterprise development education as well as a lack of networking opportunities. If Africa is to lead the 5th Industrial Revolution, shifting our mindset from creating jobs to unleashing collectively owned rural/township based firms that have access to first world education/resources must become a natural part of our thinking, teaching and doing.
Holding 68 percent of the world’s arable land in Africa, 60 percent of the world’s labour force, rural/township untapped consumer markets as well as large scale natural resources – we are well positioned to lead a process of transformation that will allow the country and continent to sustain itself by positioning ourselves as major suppliers/exporters in the international trade arena through the sole promotion of local ventures.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Remind yourself daily to be relentless in the pursuit of your goals and brand vision as a fellow African leading the 5th industrial revolution. Being a disruptor means challenges must and will come…use these challenges to build resilience, to adapt and to fail forward for the dreams of our people rests on our shoulders to fulfill.
In your opinion, what are the secrets to successful entrepreneurship?
• Have a managing board/operational team that are committed to your collective goal
• Monetise your passions/skills
• Lead with love