The Work-Wise blog is looking into the lives of young entrepreneurs in South Africa because they are exciting people who have a positive impact on society. They often come up with new ideas on how to do things and they drive innovation. They create competition for existing competitors which drives economic growth and, best of all in South Africa, they create job opportunities for themselves and for others. A win-win situation for everyone.

There are several different types of entrepreneurs. Some are engaged in small businesses and others start a business that they hope to scale up to be a large company. There are also social entrepreneurs who focus on creating products and services that solve social needs and problems. Some of these social entrepreneurs start non-governmental organisations rather than profit-making businesses. This is not an easy route either, and requires a lot of dedication and, often, sacrifice. Below is an interview with a young social entrepreneur…

Ntokozo describes himself as a ‘Bookologist’. He is the CEO and Founder of The Web Foundation which is a non-profit organisation that hopes to improve the lives of young people in South Africa. The main inspiration for The Web Foundation is the National Development Plan’s three pillar approach to resolve social ills by building social cohesion through education, art and sport. Ntokozo’s love of reading and experience as a child growing up in rural KwaZulu Natal has led him to focus primarily on his Siyafunda Donate – a – Book campaign as he starts his non-profit entrepreneurship journey.

Here are some questions that I asked him to discover why and how he started The Web Foundation:

1. What was the driving force behind starting your own NPO?

I don’t really know. It’s just in my system and just happened! I wanted to represent rural children who should have access to libraries and book clubs. I know what it’s like to grow up without books and this really is my drive.

2. How do you earn an income at the moment?

I currently work full time in the defence force so I can sustain myself for now. I do my ‘real work’ after hours when I am able to follow my passion. In my position in the defence force I’m told what to do but I’m able to think out of the box in my NPO work.

3. What is the main activity you’re involved in at the moment?

We are doing a book drive at the moment. We will be distributing 12 to 15 bins at various malls in the Gauteng area so that people can donate books which we will collect and donate to rural schools. We are also approaching corporates to see if we can interest them in starting libraries in rural areas.

4. How are you managing to raise funds for your activities?

At the moment, I generally fund myself. I’m busy trying to get sponsors on board but fundraising is a challenge. It takes time to build networks and people take their time.

5. How do you see things going from here?

It may take some years but government and corporates are pumping money into NGOs that work in literacy. I will definitely leave the defence force to follow my passion. I want to leave a legacy in the schools that I’m involved with.

6. What do you see as the main obstacles to literacy and education in rural schools?

There are two main issues. One is the lack of infrastructure. There aren’t enough classrooms and sports and recreational facilities. These schools also don’t attract quality teachers and this means that parents and children aren’t as committed to education as they might be in a good environment. It’s extremely difficult in rural schools; there sometimes no toilets.

The other issue is that there is a lack of learning resources in these schools and they are not conducive to learning. Teachers are not always competent and committed. Teachers need to be involved in active citizenship and be really committed. Several new schools have been opened in Gauteng recently but it’s electioneering and not real commitment to learning.

7. Do you see yourself as successful?

At the moment, I can’t see my success yet. I have seen a transformation in myself as I’m more self-reliant. Children need to come out of schools knowing what they want and how and when to get it. They need to be prepared after matric and be equipped to start NPOs, go into government, start their own business or attend leadership institutions.

8. You have taken on a lot of extra work. How do you cope?

I have family support. They have seen me on TV and they believe in my idea. I have peace that they understand what I’m doing. This idea has inspired them to help too and they bless it.

9. You mentioned that you’ve been on TV. Tell me more about that?

I was contacted by YoTV on SABC 1 and NCA to talk about The Web Foundation and I’ve also been on the SABC news channel.

10. Do you have any presence on social media?

We are everywhere: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. #NoRuralChildLeftBehind #BinOfKnowledge

11. Do you work on your own?

No, there is a team of people who work in different provinces. We’ve got people in Durban and Pretoria as well as in other areas of KwaZulu Natal. Even my mother and brother are involved to help transport and deliver books.

12. What is your dream?

For children to have free and easy access to books. We source mother-tongue books too and have already had a donation from Book Dash who print books in all South African languages. We are hoping to get donations from publishing houses like Pearsons and from Bridge Books and Exclusive Books.

We want to be able to reach 40 schools with an E-library in 3 years in provinces such as Limpopo, Northern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Free State and Eastern Cape. We want to have 10 laptops with educational game and eBooks available in each school.

13. What keeps you going?

I love children, I love books and I love community development.

14. What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own NPO or business?

Just start! A mentor would help but there is no map. You just have to take the road wherever it takes you. But don’t ask too many people for advice and don’t ask the wrong people. The NPO sector is difficult because of money issues so love what you do.
Ntokozo told me that his organisation doesn’t take sponsorships directly at this stage. He prefers people to donate directly to publishers who then invite him to fetch the donated books. There’ll also be the donation bins in malls soon.

His contact details are:

Cell phone: 079 080 6112

Tell us: are there any inspiring entrepreneurs near you?