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The impact of FNB’s social entrepreneurship programme – aligning profit and purpose

There is a growing opportunity for innovative “social entrepreneurs” to solve social, economic, and environmental challenges while building profitable and sustainable businesses. The idea of combining profit-making with purpose-driven positive social impact has challenged the traditional notion that the two endeavours are mutually exclusive.

To support the viability of South African social entrepreneurship, First National Bank (FNB) partnered with business growth specialists Fetola to deliver two cohorts of the Social Entrepreneurship Impact Lab (SEIL) Programme. SEIL was purpose-built to enhance the sustainability and investment readiness of social entrepreneurs to accelerate their long-term, sustainable business growth and positive social impact. The second cohort of the SEIL programme saw 28 entrepreneurs participate in phase 1 over 14 months, and 16 participate in phase 2 over six months.

Exceptional impact

The second cohort concluded in November 2023, and the monitoring and evaluation of the programme’s impact was completed thereafter, highlighting the following successes:

  • The programme resulted in a weighted average revenue growth rate of 43% in phase 1 and 47% in phase 2. This measure compares business maturity at the start of the programme to business maturity at the end to determine programme success.
  • Lastly, 35% of the 28 SMEs received funding. Three received funding from Vumela, FNB’s Enterprise Development fund, exemplifying SEIL’s ultimate ambition of taking entrepreneurs from purpose-driven ideas to market-tested, sustainable businesses.

These successes can be attributable to the following activity indicators:

  • The programme delivered 1 472 hours of in-person workshops, which covered a variety of topics including personal transformation, costing, and pricing, sales and marketing, people management and HR.
  • A total of 1 495 hours were committed to mentorship, and each SME received about 53 hours of one-on-one mentoring. 
  • In addition to these offerings, the programme provided an additional 210 online webinar hours to help SMEs with an additional Color Accounting module and social impact support courses including media placement opportunities and assistance with funding applications.

Mawande Jara’s story

Mawande Jara, the founder of Mkhuzangwe Waste Solutions, joined SEIL in 2022.

“When I joined the programme”, Jara recalls, “I had five employees. We were operating from a container at the back of a mall in Khayelitsha. I thought my business plan was on point. But after the very first SEIL session I realised how far I could go. We had an excellent facilitator who explained the importance of aligning our plans with our visions for our businesses. After that, all the practical support provided through SEIL – financial skills, HR, how to increase sales and more – allowed me to ensure I could live up to this vision.”

As well as comprehensive theoretical and practical guidance and mentorship, SEIL helped Jara create a new website, expand his network of contacts, and learn how to pitch his business to investors. One of the most significant benefits, as he explains, was SEIL’s investment into him as an entrepreneur.

“I’m able to present myself in a completely different way since my participation in SEIL. I’m more confident about describing and pitching my business. I know the ins and outs of where we are today and where we want to be. I’m able to articulate my vision in a way that is persuasive. The day after we had a SEIL session on how to respond to RFQs and tenders, I saw an RFQ on the City of Cape Town website. I was able to apply my newly learnt skills, and three months later I was awarded the tender, securing an ongoing contract to provide community refuse collection.”

Today Mkhuzangwe offers comprehensive waste-management solutions for municipal, commercial, industrial, and retail customers. Jara has increased his employee base from five to 144 employees. He has formalised his processes and hired an accountant. During the programme Jara was one of the participants who successfully applied for the Vumela Accelerate loan, which enabled him to purchase a loading truck and trailer, significantly boosting his profitability. And this is just the beginning.

“When I started with SEIL I was classified as a waste picker. Now I’m a fully-fledged buy-back centre. The next step is to become a waste collector and recycler. I don’t necessarily want to expand too quickly, but there is clearly a lot of room for further growth. People need the services I’m offering, and I’ve seen the difference it makes in the lives of my employees. It’s an opportunity for them to rise out of poverty.” 

Mawande Jara’s story is one of many small business successes that the SEIL programme has influenced, demonstrating that purpose-driven enterprises can also be profitable.

By Palesa Moeletsi, SME Business Development Support Manager at FNB Commercial

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