After our nine month expedition from Alaska to Argentina – finding and sharing stories of people using business as a force for good – we had planned to spend a few weeks in Cape Town unwinding, making a plan for post-adventure life and catching up with some good friends who live there.
When in Cape Town we were immediately struck by the entrepreneurial spirit, the huge social and environmental challenges they’re facing, and the incredible opportunities this presents for social entrepreneurs. Having planned to finish our MacroAdventure journey in Argentina, we couldn’t now resist the draw to explore the social enterprise landscape in Cape Town. And we are so pleased that we did. In the few days we spent meeting and interviewing people in the city we were so inspired by what we found. The combination of wealth and entrepreneurial spirit, combined with huge social and environmental challenges really does make this place an excellent breeding ground for social entrepreneurs.
Our first meeting was with Max Pichulik from Impact Amplifier – having spent five years in corporate business and investment banking in the UK, Max wanted to return to South Africa and use his skills to make a difference: to pursue a career with purpose. Shortly after his return he founded Africa’s first social enterprise incubator and small business innovation hub and is now focussed on helping people who are using business to solve social and environmental problems. He does this through a series of mentorship programs, and uses his skills, knowledge, and connections to help entrepreneurs become investment-ready and scale to the next level of business growth.
The next meeting was with an incredibly driven and passionate couple, Jonny and Debbie Harris. With a civil engineering background, and a passion for solving problems, these guys couldn’t sit by whilst they saw a major challenge waiting to be solved. So they founded Isidima – meaning ‘Dignity’ in Xhosa – a design and development company that is focussed on solving water based infrastructure problems. To you and I this means bringing better sanitation to those that need it most in an affordable and sustainable way. Two of their most inspiring projects are the Water Hub project, a research facility that will research, demonstrate and train people in the use of Sustainable Drainage and Ecological Wastewater Treatment Systems capable of treating polluted water within South Africa. They are also working on a commercially available product called DEWdrop for households, businesses, and small communities, to utilise natural organic filter systems to treat and reuse their grey water waste.
Next up I met the Founder of Green Pop, one of the most inspiring stories of how a great idea turns into a business through passion and sheer volume of demand.
This is fantastic work on its own, but not content to stop there these guys have also designed, and are currently bringing to market, the incredible Arumloo – an amazing dunnie that flushes with only two litres of water. That’s less than a third compared to its nearest competitor on the market and about eight litres less than your standard loo. Every. Single. Flush. Just imagine the difference this would make to Cape Town’s water supply problem if one of these was in every single home – let alone how much water it would save you personally. For the average household it would save up to 100 litres per day, or 36500 litres per year! We had the great pleasure of meeting these guys, chatting through some amazing ideas and introducing them to a crowdfunding platform that are going to help bring this to market so you can order one for your home soon.
Next up I met the Founder of Green Pop, who shared one of the most inspiring stories of how a great idea turns into a business through passion and sheer volume of demand. What started out as a fun project between a group of friends to neutralise the carbon footprint of a recent business trip – by planting 1000 trees in and around Cape Town – very quickly scaled to a full time business with 12 staff. They have now planted over 71 000 trees. The three founders Lauren O’Donnell, Misha Teasdale and legendary South African folk singer Jeremy Loops raised awareness for their original campaign using guerrilla tactics such as riding through Cape Town wearing green capes and setting up a turfed car parking space, playing music and selling tokens to sponsor a tree - one of Jeremy Loops’ early gigs. Shortly after celebrating the success of their initial campaign, these guys were inundated with calls from people asking them to plant trees in their area and from companies wanting to send their employees on tree planting days. And just like that, Green Pop was born. The team now run tree planting workshops, and environmental education festivals that attract thousands of people.
A short hop away, if you can miss the notorious Cape Town traffic, tucked away at the back of the Threads Project store in Woodstock, you can find another fantastic Cape Town grown social entrepreneur, Dave Hutchison, founder of Sexy Socks. Not only is this man helping people drastically up their sock game, he is taking the cross-subsidisation model one step further. For every pair of dazzling Sexy Socks these guys sell, they donate a pair of school socks to a child in need. Not content for their positive social impact to only last as long as a pair of socks however, Dave is now using his platform in schools to educate and inspire children to work towards a better future for themselves, their families and for South Africa. He is introducing them to the power of social entrepreneurship and allowing them to believe in a better future. Sterling stuff, Dave. Threads Project is a fantastic Social Enterprise in itself, supports an independent collective of local designers and gives them a space to bring their products to market.
Lastly we were very lucky to be welcomed into the home of Mart the Butcher, Founder of Cure Deli, an extremely inspiring guy who is passionate about meat reared and cooked the right way. Mart puts a huge amount of effort into finding and sourcing ethically reared meat in the local area and delivering it to his customers. Whilst some of these farmers aren’t large enough to be officially certified ‘organic’, Mart puts huge effort into ensuring they are rearing the meat in the most socially and environmentally responsible way possible. Not only is he supporting smaller farmers and employing local staff, but he’s ensuring you have access to some of the tastiest bacon, ribs, chicken and lamb Cape Town has to offer.
We were only in Cape Town for a short time and only scratched the surface of what this place has to offer. We were blown away and truly affected by what we saw here. We know that with the right nurturing this place can become a major global hub for people and entrepreneurs wanting to start, invest in, and grow businesses that make a difference.
Even though our Alaska to Argentina adventure has finished, we are busy growing the next phase of MacroAdventure. We are connecting and promoting collaboration between social entrepreneurs, and sharing ideas to catalyse the growth of world-changing businesses around the globe.
The amazing thing we found on our nine month adventure is if you connect people that can share knowledge, give access to funding and help grow ideas you can speed up their path to success and drastically improve their growth trajectory. There are inspiring people out there doing great things and solving problems that affect us all. So let’s help them start, help them refine, and help them grow.
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