Scoody the Geek Lab of Clothing

Scoody the Geek Lab of Clothing

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.57.15 AMAs the son of two educators, Allan Gray Fellow Sechaba Selialia was raised around books and grew to love reading. This love of books and their different views of the world would lead him to what he describes as his life’s calling: “to raise people’s consciousness around certain topics.” He explains that no one can force a change in behaviour, but it is possible to make people aware of other options and the possibility that what they believe and how they perceive might not be the end of the story.

His first consciousness-changing endeavour took the form of a student movement, Africa Rebranded, which he founded while at university. This movement promoted the ideology of Afro-optimism and allowed for discourse that articulated the African condition and how it played out in the university context. His desire to change perspectives has also filtered through to his entrepreneurial endeavours.

Through his fashion and apparel brand, Scoody, he’s changing the way people view the traditional scarf and hoodie. Two separate items of clothing take on a different form as a single accessory that is a hybrid between the sc- of the scarf and the -oody of the hoody.

Sechaba came across a similar item while studying his BCom degree in in Economics and Finance at the University of Cape Town. He saw the untapped potential in terms of creating a brand around the item and marketing its fashionability and multi-functional nature. Four years on and he’s celebrating the brand’s biggest contract to date: the license to manufacture and distribute Kaizer Chiefs branded Scoodies nationwide.

Given Sechaba’s frequent intellectual and cerebral pursuits, it’s quite fitting that he views Scoody as the geek lab of clothing. “We experiment to simplify clothing, embracing multi-functionality and the uniqueness that comes about as a result … making it cool to be a nerd!” he explains. Offering three Scoody options – an entry-level one, a limited range one and one that can be custom-designed ­– allows them to meet the needs of a very broad customer base. Says Sechaba: “We manufacture and distribute the Scoody to serve as a vessel through which people [and brands] can communicate their uniqueness and differentiate themselves.”

Born and raised in Vereeninging, Sechaba first found out about the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation when a representative came to deliver a presentation at during his Matric year. He recognised that the opportunity had the potential for holistic learning and growth. “My thoughts and emotions at the time were that I would make my family and school proud if I was to be awarded the scholarship and would certainly set myself up for a bright future,” says Sechaba.

SEchabeSechaba describes the experience of becoming a beneficiary of the Foundation in 2009 and graduating as a Fellow four years later as a life-changing one – more so than what he initially anticipated. He explains that it’s not just about the financial benefit. The community of astute entrepreneurs and future change-makers that one becomes part of is even more valuable. “A wise man once said that ‘your network is your net worth’ and [the Fellowship] opportunity certainly increases one’s ‘net worth’ substantially!”

While at UCT, Sechaba served in the residence leadership structures for three out of the four years he spent in the university residence system. After completing his undergraduate degree he went on to do his BCom Honours in Financial Analysis and Portfolio Management. He now works at Edge Growth as a Business Analyst and serves on the Executive Committee of the Association of Allan Gray Fellows, heading up its Ventures portfolio.

With his knack for seeing the world differently, he certainly embodies what the Foundation calls Intellectual Imagination – an established record of intellectual achievement; an ability to see the unseen, challenge the status quo and suggest that things could be done differently.

 

 

Entrepreneurial Flavour: Zayne Imam

Entrepreneurial Flavour: Zayne Imam

zayneA conversation with Zayne Imam about his life – where he’s going and where he’s been – brings to mind childhood verses of Dr Seuss. Born in Durban, raised in Johannesburg and now a proud Capetonian, Zayne started travelling to exotic destinations in high school as a travel writer and later as a business analyst for McKinsey and Company. After almost two years of being settled in Cape Town he’s ready to pack his bags again; this time he’s headed for Madrid, Spain, where he’ll pursue his MBA at IE Business School. Surely Zayne’s the kind of guy Dr Seuss had in mind when he said, “Oh! The places you’ll go! … You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing … Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of guy!”

Zayne is also the kind of person the Foundation had in mind when they imagined the Foundation Pillar of Achievement Excellence. It is described as the ongoing pursuit of excellence with tangible and specific focus on setting goals and having the motivation to make a difference and leave a mark.

He remembers an incident in his childhood where he witnessed someone in fear of losing his job because of one single, uncontextualised moment. “I hated that so much hinged on that single moment [with little consideration of what else may have led to that moment] … [it] … left me feeling uneasy and has probably been a driving internal force for a sense of empathy and how being your own boss can free you from such injustice.” He also recalls often thinking that he would make a substantial impact on his community. Ever since becoming a Candidate Allan Gray Fellow in 2007 he’s adjusted that view to one where his impact could be on the world. The Foundation, he says, “channels their Fellows’ unique ambitions through an entrepreneurial focus, retains their individual identity and amplifies the potential impact the individual can have!”

Of entrepreneurship Zayne has had varied and in-depth experience. In fact, this is the achievement he is proudest of. Many might even consider it a luxury – allowing oneself enough in-depth time in an entrepreneurial space to assess whether starting up a business is something one would like to undertake. Zayne’s first foray into entrepreneurship came in the form of his involvement in the operations of the startup Rethink Education that gives South African school kids access to online content through a mobile system. Another entrepreneurial endeavour was his own: becoming the co-founder of a startup in a completely different industry – hospitality.

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Five-Oh-Two started as a natural consequence of having frequent, wonderful dinner parties at Apartment 502 in Mandela Rhodes Place with his roommate. They wanted to “bottle” essence of what they experienced every time so that more people could experience it. They also realised that, given our overly digitised world, people are starved more for human connection than for great food and wine. Due to a lack of capital for starting a restaurant they started hosting “gastro-events” at different venues throughout Cape Town with different themes, chefs and photographers each time.

They have been in operation for a year and are celebrating the fact that it is finally profitable. Their hopes for Five-Oh-Two is that it becomes a viable alternative to eating out in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and eventually Europe, where their envisioned Five-Oh-Two app will pave the way for them.

About his plans to relocate to Madrid in June this year, Zayne explains that getting an international MBA was something he never even thought would be possible. Halfway through his Financial Accounting degree at UCT he realised that it was not suited to his personality but still managed to finish the degree. He then did an Honours degree in Financial Analysis and Portfolio Management. His first work experience followed a similar pattern – 18 months after working at a call centre of a financial institution he realised it was not for him. He quit his job, spent three months in Thailand mulling over his future and then got a job at McKinsey and Company. “Getting this job was a huge step forward in my career,” says Zayne. It opened up networks and opportunities that seemed unlikely before. It also afforded him great corporate experience and, together with his entrepreneurial experience, will allow him to find the perfect in-between place within the corporate world and startup community.

As he navigates to that perfect in-between place Zayne will do well to remember the childlike but infinitely wise words of our dear doctor: “remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

 

 

Waste: The re-utilized resource movement (previously “waste”)

Waste: The re-utilized resource movement (previously “waste”)

Business, particularly production, is known for using natural resources without considering the full life cycle of that product. It is therefore no secret that the time has come to rethink our relationship with the natural world.  The Foundation aims to cultivate responsible, high impact entrepreneurs. These are individuals that will contribute to society by creating businesses that provide value to their customers and conduct economic activity that is considerate of natural ecosystems. We believe that an entrepreneurial mindset can solve many of the problems that we are facing today, some problems are in fact an opportunity.

Three of our Fellows, Blaise, Lowell and Adhilla, share their views on waste and the potential opportunities for waste management.

Blog IMageMost of the world’s waste is currently managed by indiscriminate dumping at landfill sites. Not only is this a messy practice, but it is outdated in a world experiencing space and natural resource scarcity. Moreover, it discards the economic potential of various waste streams and places undue pressure on available land at the expense of dumping. The reality is that we throw away too much of what we produce, often thinking it is useless to us. Whilst this may hold true on an individual level, it does not mean that what we throw away has no value to the world-at-large.

With this said, there is an emerging recognition that our current strategy of waste management is inefficient and costly. Some progressive and entrepreneurial moves are beginning to improve waste management strategies. These maximise recycling and the use of waste in other industries, promoting industrial symbiosis. Firms are increasingly being made to internalise their wastage costs, both through improved policy and economic considerations. Efficiency is therefore promoted while decreasing the loss of resources through the production process.

The European Union (EU) is at the forefront of this move, having strict standards on waste disposal and a social conscience that is pushing for minimised wastage. As such, the bloc is currently leading in the ability to avoid landfill usage, with up to 80% of all waste either being recycled or used in other processes. In some instances, EU member states are pushing the envelope of innovation throughgasification technology that has turned Norway into a net-importer of waste for its waste-to-energy programme.

South Africa on the other hand is lagging in this regard. This is due to a combination of various development priorities competing for limited state attention, an uninformed public, relatively poor policy and accountability frameworks, and a lack of coordination within the industry as a whole. In 2012, it was estimated that the domestic economy lost R17 billion worth of resources to landfill sites. A pressing need for innovation in coordination and management technologies therefore exists within South Africa.

Waste management at an industrial level is somewhat easy to handle. A factory produces a relatively steady and uniform supply of waste, so transferring it to another factory where it is used as an input is reasonably straightforward. This is a classic example of industrial symbiosis, where one firm’s waste is another’s input. The supplier benefits from decreased waste management costs, sometimes even receiving payment for the stream, and the user benefits from a cheap and steady supply of material. Setting up associated industries based on waste flows is an opportunity that is currently being implemented overseas, but is still waiting to be harnessed locally. National and regional programmes such as the NISP,WISP, GISP and KISP are, however, being set up but could be enhanced with a number of entrepreneurial interventions.

Managing municipal waste is where it gets tricky. Most homes do not separate their rubbish, neither do most small businesses or light manufacturing. Here waste is thrown in the bin and sent to the dump. This creates a problem. Separating mixed waste is a costly, dirty and potentially dangerous affair. So more often than not, the waste is simply burnt. However, with increasing economic, environmental and social pressure, a global trend of turning municipal waste into energy is emerging. In South Africa, this move is being spearheaded byInterwaste, who are in the process of setting up the first domestic waste to energy plant in Germiston, Gauteng. The idea is to take refuse, shred it, turn it into compacted pellets and then burn this as an alternative to coal. While this may not be the most responsible way of dealing with trash, it is at least better than being burnt without generating any electricity, as currently is the norm. Smaller scale waste to energy applications are also gradually being taken up by industry – BMW currently uses a biogas generator to partially power their Rosslyn plant. The gas is produced using manure from local cattle farmers and large quantities of industrial paper waste. Other examples include the emergence of small scale bio-diesel manufacturers who utilize used cooking oil from large fast food retailers.

Despite the seemingly slow pace of progress, the waste sector is not void of innovation. Rubicon Global, a technology company based in the USA, was recently launched as a global waste optimisation service provider. The company offers a coordination service that helps reduce the costs a firm carries in the disposal of waste produced through its business. This is done by using cloud based technology that can be accessed through a mobile phone, linking the producers of waste with recycles and other users. In turn, their service helps increase rates of recycling and decrease overall levels of waste that reach the landfill stage.

MyWaste’s mobile and web application is another innovative technology solution that uses a unique approach to residential waste flow optimisation and has a wide reach in countries like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The calendar format of the software helps to enhance the way municipalities share collection schedules and recycling information with residents. The simplest and most useful feature of this widely used app is to help residents understand “what goes where”. The system does, however, rely quite heavily on local municipalities having existing and efficient waste management systems in place. A little closer to home, another “MyWaste”  allows any waste producer the opportunity to find recyclers and consumers based on their location. Tuffy  has brought this location-based search to consumer’s smart-phones. However, these platforms are only effective if there is significant uptake by the public – and there is still a way to go in promoting this awareness.

From a policy perspective, South Africa is slowly building a more dynamic approach to waste management. The sector is significantly legislated with a number of laws that cover the three levels of government (i.e. municipal; provincial and national). Originally, the legislation looked to regulate the handling of waste to ensure proper processing and treatment of all refuse including harmful and hazardous substances. However, a number of drivers have spurred recent updates in regulations to provide an enabling policy environment for service providers to process and recycle waste. Such drivers have included increased awareness of the environmental imperative of recycling, the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the ability for informal or formal businesses to monetize waste streams, and need for government to be more efficient in the use of limited landfill sites. The local policy landscape is still developing and will continue to shape the entrepreneurial solutions that emerge to for this sector.

The reutilisation of resources in South Africa is a massive entrepreneurial opportunity. According to the Department of Science and Technology’s National Waste Roadmap , in 2013 the South African waste sector employed approximately 29 000 people and was worth about R15 billion – around 0.51% of the country’s GDP. In 2011, we generated about 108 million tons of waste: 59 million tons of general waste; 48 million tons of unclassified waste; and 1 million tons of hazardous waste. It is estimated that if the sector were fully developed, it could contribute between 1% and 1.5% of GDP.

Overall, there is a growing corporate, political and social awareness of the costs that inefficient waste management imposes on society and the environment. A move is slowly being made towards more integrated and streamlined systems, which reduce the amount of waste by promoting recycling, waste to energy production and symbiotic industrial relationships. The opportunities are up for grabs, it just depends on who is going to offer a useful service or technology to help make it happen.

 

The Value of Experience  By Wayne Coetzee

The Value of Experience By Wayne Coetzee

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 8.13.16 AMThe Foundation’s ethos or shared fundamentals, is made up of its tactical focus on Education and Experience complemented by the personal traits of Effort and Ethics. The Foundation’s approach to cultivating entrepreneurs therefore includes experience as part of the beneficiary’s journey. Guest writer, Wayne Coetzee, from the School of Global Studies, Gothenburg, Sweden, shares why experience is vital, specially for students. His study focuses specifically on the value of internships.

 

In a time of financial crisis, competition is a hard reality for anyone wanting to enter the job market, especially for aspiring young professionals. Due to fierce competition from seasoned professionals and early career candidates, students need to go beyond the basic requirements––they need to possess both academic merit and work experience. Internships provide aspiring young professionals with the prospect to achieve the latter by offering opportunities to those that want to pursue careers that match academic and personal interests. From a strategic perspective, internships open doors. From a personal development perspective, they foster skills and build character. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Take Sweden as an example. In most university programmes, students are required to pursue a four-month internship at an organisation of their choice. The aim of this initiative is three-fold: One, it provides students with a unique opportunity to gain practical work experience in their field of interest. Upon completion, most students explain how practical application helped and even strengthened theoretical knowledge, and vice versa. As an educator at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, I have witnessed first-hand how internships have transformed students into well-rounded individuals. Those that have completed their four-month stints usually display strong teamwork skills, a sense of urgency, a more developed understanding of individual responsibility, greater adaptability, improved analytical skills, and the ability to complete tasks in a timely and professional manner. In short, the result is almost always positive.

Two, internships provide students with the opportunity to build strategic networks outside of the traditional classroom environment. These networks essentially allow them to get closer to the labour market. Professor Per Assmo, the Director of the International Programme for Politics and Economics at University West, Sweden, asserts that internships are an important part of gaining employment. “The experience shows that over the last four-to-five years, between seventy and eighty per cent of those that did internships received a job at that location. One can thus conclude that internships are an entry ticket to the labour market.” But not only do internships provide an opportunity to build networks, it also provides an opportunity to add value to existing networks. Erik Andersson, a coordinator of the Masters Programme in Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, notes that students often underestimate their capacity to strengthen networks in the work market. ‘Over the years, students have told me that they didn’t realise they knew so much, and they didn’t realise that they could actually add value to existing networks to the extent they do. This is a common theme in student feedback after their internships.”

Three, while internships are a gateway to future employment in an organisation, and a unique recruitment platform for companies, they also provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools to pursue other endeavours. This is particularly relevant in societies and communities where they are potential job creators. As one Greek exchange student in Sweden explains: “In my country, where thousands of young people are unemployed, I want to be a job creator. I want to create jobs that could benefit others in the long-term. The internship programme provided me with the opportunity to learn from visionary leaders, and it provided me with the right tools. From such a foundation, I feel more confident to start my own business because I have seen first-hand how things work in practice.”

Despite the on-going and innovative modification of academic curriculums, most universities around the world are not set-up to teach students how to become business leaders or independent employees. This is where internships are particularly useful for professional development. The exposure to real-world problems provides candidates with critical insights of how to deal with issues that are not always well defined or anticipated in academic literature.

Even if universities have internal mentoring programmes, they often lack the capacity and flexibility to provide one-on-one training, which is something that internships usually provide. In a globalised world where systems and processes continuously change, internships closes the knowledge gap by providing interns with much-needed experience, adaptability, and creativity in changing environments. Although revolving door practices have meant that professionals move between corporate, state, and academic structures––spreading invaluable knowledge and experience––they do not always transpire in rapid succession, which means that there is a potential time-knowledge gap in tertiary education. In other words, what was relevant in a specific industry five years ago may not be relevant today. The only way students can get the most up-to-date insights and experiences is by doing an internship at an organisation that deals with their subject matter on daily basis.

If possible, students should try to do more than one internship in order to gain as much experience as possible. Two or more internships can provide students with a better understanding of what it is like to work in different professional environments, with various types of people, and diverse industry-specific challenges. To that end, it provides them with the opportunity to evaluate and compare, which is only possible if one has personal experience.

While internships provide a host of opportunities, and commonly strengthen key skill sets, they do not guarantee success, nor do they promise to ignite interest. Like most endeavours in life, it is up to the student to make the most of their experience. That said, there are practical challenges to doing an internship, such as the difference between paid and unpaid internships, the duration and location of internships, and the awkward balancing act between internship responsibilities and coursework etc. There are no easy solutions to such predicaments, especially not in South Africa where universities do not always facilitate internship programmes. Furthermore, in a country with uneven economic development and unequal opportunity such as South Africa there are legitimate concerns that individuals with greater access to resources will have more freedom to pursue internships. But those who are able to overcome the aforementioned obstacles should take some comfort in knowing that internships often level the playing field. If administered correctly, they provide equal opportunity to those that want to get their feet wet. The value of this experience should not be underestimated.