On Wednesday the 9th of April 2014, Impact Hub Johannesburg was buzzing with excitement and activity. 15 social entrepreneurs were presenting business ventures in a Change Makers pitching session hosted by Spark* International. The space was filled with people that are driven to see true change in society. The desire to make an Impact was contagious.
During the session, compelling propositions were presented. From initiating entrepreneurship in high schools in Bekkersdal to creating social organisations that assist the police with administrative work to reduce backlogs. Other ventures that were pitched are in gaming, poultry and education. Lorraine Makwande for example, is working on project that will see her assist less privileged girls by providing them with free female hygiene products that they may not necessarily afford. The pitching session had 1000 US Dollars prize money for the social entrepreneur who, as judged by the audience, had the most promising impact idea. It was won by Paul Talliard. He runs Hands of Honour, a community project that rehabilitates neighbourhoods and obsolete stock through people who are socially marginalised.
The Change Makers pitching session, which is run by Spark*, is the first part of a four stage program that is conducted yearly. The15 entrepreneurs that pitched were picked from various applications. In the run up to Change Makers session, they had gone through an intense 5 days living entrepreneurship accelerator programme were they were taught entrepreneurship tools and skills. The entrepreneurs now move into the next stage were Spark* will provide them with three years of support. This will include connections to people who can help take their businesses to the next level of impact. The list includes lawyers, programmers and web designers. Finally, the program gives rounds of 1000 US Dollars that entrepreneurs can tap into to help overcome barriers and to see their businesses to the next level. Spark* will provide this funding as a gift and will not get any form of returns for it. The start ups can also expect to get support through Change makers plus. A program aimed at providing advanced support for the strongest change makers in South Africa.
Spark* International is a non profit organisation that exists to fund and support local entrepreneurs who are helping others in the area they live, for example, South Africans helping South Africans, Kenyans’ helping Kenyans. Spark* also supports and funds Early stage entrepreneurs who have a non profit social enterprise or a for profit social impact company that exists to reduce poverty in a community.
Aaron Tait, the co-founder and a director at Spark* international, talking about their organisation’s work, said, “when we find budding entrepreneurs, they are only impacting tens of people with their ideas; our job is to accelerate them to impact hundreds and then thousands . . . we are angel investors in social sense.” Started 4 years ago, Spark had a low through put in the early years but now has over a 90% rate of success. They work in three countries, South Africa, Kenya and Papua Guinea. They assist 105 entrepreneurs across the aforementioned locations