Greetings from Johannesburg, or Jozi, as it’s affectionately known, to locals. I’m here interning with the Emzingo Fellowship, a company started by two IE alumni, Ramon Marmolejos and Drew Bonfiglio, that trains MBA students to become responsible leaders while working on consulting projects for nonprofits, social businesses, and community organizations in developing countries.
I am working with Ankur Dhawan, a fellow IE Business School MBA, at Zazida Institute of Entrepreneurship, a post-secondary educational institution for educating and training entrepreneurs. Zazida started small, teaching 25 students in its first year, but its founder, Vincent Joyner, has big plans: he wants to reach 100,000 entrepreneurs by 2021, and to do this through the creation of a network of online and offline resources for aspiring entrepreneurs in Africa, including online educational content, seminars, webinars, networking events, peer coaching, and a social network. Ankur’s and my project is to develop a strategy for launching said network, for acquiring clients, and for monetizing the platform. Vincent intends to have the website for the club launched on July 31—talk about managing expectations.
The other 12 fellows here have a wide variety of projects to work on: from creating a business plan for a fair trade coffee company’s barista training program, to developing a distribution network for condoms, to fundraising for a community center, and more. And in addition to our projects with our field partners, we also completed a social business case study, in which we developed pricing, marketing, legal, and operations strategy recommendations for Shwe Shwe Poppis, a social enterprise that sells toys made from traditional South African fabric and benefits the African Children’s Feeding Scheme. Needless to say, they’re keeping us busy here.
While relaxation isn’t always easy to come by, inspiration abounds. When I see students at Zazida come together organically to form teams, and witness their drive and enthusiasm, I realize what great things can be accomplished when people who share a common goal join forces with each other. When children in Soweto whose families struggle to find ways to put food on the table greet strangers like me with open arms and ear-to-ear grins, I remember that in the greater scheme of things, the challenges I face really aren’t so bad. And when I find myself underwater, face-to-face with a great white shark in Gansbaai, simultaneously terrified, exhilarated, and freezing, I know that taking this chance and pushing myself out of my comfort zone was the best decision I could make.