Meet 6 young social entrepreneurs who are helping to drive change

Posted on June 23rd, 2016

Meet 6 young social entrepreneurs who are helping to drive change

This article forms part of the Youth Month 2016 series in which SME South Africa, throughout June, will shine the spotlight on youth issues and highlight the work of young social entrepreneurs and innovators who are shaping SA’s future.

From a month that commemorates the youth of 1976, Youth Month today also seeks to celebrate the strides that the young and social entrepreneurs are making in solving some of the country’s most pressing challenges from unemployment and poverty to access to healthcare.

In true millennial style, some young entrepreneurs are about more than just making a buck, they are cleverly combining a social mission with business and successfully making a real impact and helping to bring about change.

This is a generation that a Deloitte survey, ‘Mind the gaps: The 2015 Deloitte Millennial survey’ revealed places great importance on “job creation,” “profit generation,” and “improving society,” as well as an expectation that a business should be good for individuals by offering employment, and to have a positive impact on the wider society.

We’ve rounded up six young social entrepreneurs who are taking action and combining profit with philanthropy.

Juanita van der Merwe (29), founder of Little Green Number, an initiative that is creating jobs and saving the environment.

Van der Merwe launched Little Green Number in 2011. Her award-winning social enterprise is focused on sustainable job creation. They produce a range of laptop, cosmetic and baby bags, as well as suit covers and wallets using recycled materials.

Little Green Number is run as a community-based micro-manufacturing franchise.

In 2015 Little Green Number won the Proudly South African Enterprise Award at the 2014/15 South African Premier Business Awards.

Today the business has employed over 15 individuals and according to Van der Merwe, they take pride in being able to turn trash into treasures while also eradicating unemployment.

“Let’s not try and do things our own way and alienate the older generations”

“In unity there are blessings. Let’s not try and do things our way and alienate the older generations, but let’s learn from them and build on the good they have already done,” says Van der Merwe.

Thato Kgatlhanye (23) founder of Repurpose Schoolbags is giving students from off-grid households the tools to study after dark.

Repurpose Schoolbags is an initiative which produces schoolbags made from plastic bags. The finished product is also fitted with a solar panel which charges during the day and transforms into a light at night, allowing children from off-grid households to study after dark.

The enterprise was founded in 2011 by Kgatlhanye and her friend, Reabetswe Ngwane.

The initiative, which Kgatlhanye now runs on her own, has received several awards including the 2013 SAB Innovation award, the Anzisha Prize, the SA Innovation Summit award as well as a Centre for Public Service Innovation award. Repurpose Schoolbags has also received business support from Redbull Amaphiko and Standard Bank.

Most recently Kgatlhanye was awarded the grand prize at the Elle International Impact Awards, a global award recognising and supporting female social entrepreneurship.

Dr Ranjan Sewgambar (30) is the founder and owner of Private Practicing Audiologists, which diagnoses and treats hearing and balance disorders in children and adults.

Sewgambar first launched his enterprise in the suburb of Westville, today it has grown to three branches in the Durban area.

Through his business, Sewgambar provides affordable and accessible private hearing healthcare services to children and adults.

The growing incidence of hearing loss together with the desire to make a change, are what he says motivated him to start his business.

Sewgambar has received recognition for his work; he won second place at the South African Breweries (SAB) Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme, SAB KickStart, in 2015, walking away with R40 000 towards his business.

“Increased investment into youth opportunity should remain a priority”

” Increased investment into youth should remain a priority and may actually fight poverty, reduce the disparity index and increase employment,” says Sewgambar.

Emmanuel Bonoko (26), founder of the Ebonoko Foundation. The foundation works to empower the youth through education.

Ebonoko Foundation was established in 2012. According to Bonoko, the foundation is aimed at transforming his community and communities around him through education, leadership, empowerment and serving others.

Through the foundation, Bonoko says he is able to focus on his first love, youth empowerment with development efforts.

Over the years, he says, he has been able to touch the lives of many young people and empowered them through mentorship, bursaries, donations, book donations and a host of expos.

 “Young people must strive to be significant and believe in their dreams”

Bonoko is also the founder of Ebonoko Holding – a media and communications company. He is also one of the five young South Africans to make it to the Forbes Magazine’s Africa’s Most Promising Entrepreneurs: Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 for 2016.

“Young people should be teachable, young people must strive to be significant and believe in their dreams. We need young people who are driven to be the change they want to see in their communities. We need young people who are responsible and accountable for the future of the country and of the world,” says Bonoko.


Wandisile Nqeketho (26), Siyabulela Daweti (27), and Faith Leburu (28), founders of 18 Gangster Museum. The initiative educates the community about the dangers of gangsterism and provides opportunities for former offenders. The three also co-own Ilima Green Solutionsa company that promotes environmentally sustainable living in Khayelitsha.

18 Gangster Museum is an initiative that showcases the history of South African gangs and their influence on society.

Their intention is to educate people, in particular, the youth and prevent and reduce crime in gang-ridden areas.

The museum exhibits artworks from former prisoners and former gangsters who share their experiences.

The three friends also run a green solutions company, Ilima Green Solutions, a company promoting environmentally-friendly behaviour in Khayalitsha by offering alternative renewable energy products.

The enterprise started out by encouraging the community to bring in recyclable materials in exchange for food parcels.

“We got all the opportunities and let’s use them and make a difference in our communities. Let’s change the perceptions and start creating our own future”

Currently, Ilima Green Solutions sells cow dung as an alternative to charcoal.

Their hope is to teach township community members the importance of recycling and to take better care of the environment.

“We got all the opportunities and let’s use them and make a difference in our communities. We need to be hungry for success. Mr Raymond Ackerman says you need to have 90% guts, 10% capital. Let’s change the perceptions and start creating our own future,” says Daweti.

Frederick Bohasu (32) founder and director of Bunang Baswa, which aims to inspire young South Africans to be leaders and change-makers in their communities.

Bunang Baswa was established in 2006 and operates in Pretoria. Their aim is to inspire the youth in their community and surrounding areas to strive for a better life and be influential leaders.

Bunang Baswa serves 15 schools and over 3 000 pupils by providing personal development and leadership workshops.

They also run a mentoring programme for 20 Grade 11 learners from disadvantaged communities that include a three-day tour to different South African universities.

“Now it is time to bring change and the calling is louder than ever before”

Bohasu says his future plans include helping to decrease the high rate of school dropout and underachieving in his community.

“Now it is time to bring change and the calling is louder than ever before. Remember that history shall judge both you, me and everyone else for the contribution we have done while still alive,” says Bohasu.