Making a difference: meet the owners of businesses that have huge social impact

Published On: 23 November 2021|

The winners in the social impact category of the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021– which showcased successful student enterprises from 18 of South Africa’s universities – could not be more different.

The one thing that all three winning businesses have in common is that they make a difference and uplift the plight of the people (and animals) they help. The Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme, residing within Universities South Africa (USAf), partnered with the SAB Foundation for the Social Impact category award.

This year, the SAB Foundation contribution made it possible to select three winners in Category 3: Existing Business – Social Impact. Ms Tshegofatso Masenya, a fifth-year medical student at UCT, won in this category and went on to become the Studentpreneur of the Year – ultimately pocketing the coveted R120 000 prize for GoShare, a platform that helps financially strapped students crowdfund to pay their fees.

Second Runner-up: Ms Vuthlarhi Shirindza

Ms Vuthlarhi Shirindza (above) won R5000 in the Existing Business – Social Impact category for her business, Chewi, a pet telehealth app that offers on-demand pet telemedicine and services, is a fourth-year medical student at UCT. The fourth-year University of Cape Town medical student from Malelane, in Mpumalanga, explained that Chewi is an e-commerce platform that offers products and services by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

She stressed that her business was unique in that it is the first of this kind in the world. “We have a model that spans across pet care services and pet owner socioeconomic status – from low to high. Chewi is the first company in Africa to offer virtual veterinary consultations. We are also the first company to offer proxy adoption.”

On the e-commerce platform, pet owners can request an online vet consultation, pet grooming services, dog walking services and purchase pet food.

“We also offer mobile clinic vet services and pet training workshops in townships and rural areas to educate pet owners in these areas on how to care for pets properly,” she said. App users can also adopt a pet from the platform, either as proxy or actual. Proxy adoption is about a middle to high income earning pet owner pays for products and services for a pet owned by a low-income earning owner.

“This allows the low-income pet owner to still care for their pet’s needs even though they may not be able to afford it. It also creates an ecosystem of care amongst all pet owners.”

The app also offers pet consultations, food purchases, grooming, walking services as well as the education component. She said Chewi was building sustainable impact in three ways:

  • Job creation: “We are creating jobs for SMEs offering their business on our platform.”
  • Education: “We’re educating pet owners on how to care for pets, especially in townships and rural areas.”
  • Economic growth: Chewi is directly growing South Africa’s economy: the Global Pet Telemedicine Market was valued at R593 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow by 5 times its size in 2025.

Shirindza says that there are 70 million stray dogs in Africa with 230 000 in Cape Town alone.

“This problem leads to the breeding of diseases that can easily be spread to humans because we cohabitate with them, such as rabies, and incurable disease killing 55 000 people each year.

“Most importantly, I have been exposed to both urban and rural living environments and the difference in how pets, especially dogs, are cared for, is as stark as day and night. Pets in urban households are treated with care and are seen as a member of the family. The food, toys, essentials such as grooming and walking these pets receive are a testament to the love they receive from their owners. However, pets in townships and rural areas are not taken care of properly. The nature of the care is very inadequate if any is done at all. These pets are chained up, are not fed correctly, are not groomed and do not receive veterinary treatment.

“This is not right, as all pets, regardless of where they live, deserve the correct care and treatment, and all pet owners should be aware of what this care entails and how to provide it for their pets.”

Making money

The money-making aspect, she said, would be through the e-commerce platform. Service providers in the form of vets, pet groomers, dog walkers and nutrition companies would be onboarded onto the e-commerce platform.

“After a customer requests a service or product from the respective company, Chewi will receive 30% from each transaction per client. We will also receive revenue by using the app as an advertising space for businesses in the pet industry (pet insurance companies),” she said. Chewi markets itself on Google ads and uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

She added: “We will also be advertising in spaces where pets and their owners usually spend their time, such as at parks, hiking and walking trails, picnic spots and markets. We will be forming key strategic partnerships with vets, pet shops and pet insurance companies for them to also market our business to their clients.”

First Runner-Up: Ms Zisanda Poswayo

First runner-up, Ms Zisanda Poswayo (left), a Master of Science in Botany student at Walter Sisulu University, founded Izithwalandwe Farming, a 100% black, female and youth owned company that specialises in agricultural skills development and organic crop production.

She won R10 000, money she says she will plough back into growing her business.

Situated in Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, the company’s values are rooted in poverty eradication and job creation.

Poswayo said: “I called it Izithwalandwe, which means ‘graduates’ in Xhosa, because I want to recruit unemployed graduates. “I started the business because I was unemployed, loved farming, and saw the chance to motivate those who, like me, had no jobs. Izithwalandwe Farming’s broad objective is skills development within schools and youth empowerment by offering secondary education and training through our AgriSeta accredited courses.”

She is passionate about helping young people, including school children, by teaching them about food security and poverty alleviation. She said: “At Izithwalandwe, we pride ourselves on our post qualification programme (through AgriSeta accredited courses) where students who’ve completed the learnership programme, get the business training needed to start their own businesses.

“It’s what we need: to empower youth to be able to become entrepreneurs and create jobs!” The surrounding schools that have partnered with Izithwalandwe benefit more from feeding their learners from the organically-grown fresh produce generated in partnership with Izithwalandwe.

Poswayo says at Izithwalandwe, they have found ways around adverse weather patterns.

“To deal with adverse effects of climate change we have chosen to use tunnels for farming, allowing us to plant throughout the season and regulate the environment on which we farm. This allows sustainability and conservation of natural resources. We are currently producing butternut and green peppers which we want to package and sell as branded Izithwalandwe Farming produce.

“Our peppers, produced in our green house in July and August, earned R14 000.

“In April, our butternut crop brought in R19000.” She said her goal was to expand and have more tunnels. “Through the Cooperative Development Agency in Umthatha we are in the process of planting in four new tunnels.”

This Botany post-graduate student is passionate about teaching the unemployed youth in her area how to farm.

Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa