In 2020, Africa Teen Geeks reached 500 000 children, with over 600 000 views on its YouTube channel and more than 50 000 kids using its learning materials. The platform is the brainchild of Lindiwe Matlali, the 2018 winner of the Santam-sponsored Women of the Future (WOTF) competition. It’s a first-of-its-kind block-based coding platform to teach school children to code, from foundational phase up, in their mother tongues.
It’s social entrepreneurship at its most outstanding. A solution that helps to create future-fit young people, to give them the best chance of landing long-term employment. Winning WOTF gave Matlali the confidence and capital to take her dream to the next level. It opened up a network and market she previously didn’t have access to. Today, she’s a shining example of the African entrepreneurial spirit and a mentor to many young women seeking to achieve similar success.
Here, she shares some insights from her journey to date:
1. What inspired you to start your own business?
I love my independence and am passionate about the work I do. I became an entrepreneur, initially, to be able to control my time and income and raise my children while working. I wanted to be at every school game and concert, without worrying if my boss would give me time off.
2. What have some of the biggest challenges been and how did you overcome these?
Just because you have a company doesn’t mean that people will flock to buy from you. Building my credibility took time and was a challenge, especially as I was trying to access funding to keep my business afloat at the same time. I was extremely focused, and I intentionally built up my credibility by writing blogs. I was also lucky that I found a supportive mentor – Dr Ivan May – who made some calls on my behalf to get me a foot in the door.
3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Entrepreneurship is hard and lonely; you need to be laser-focused and surround yourself with people who inspire you when you feel like quitting. Working on your mental strength – and self-belief – is just as important as working on your business.
4. You’ve built a business around solving a shared problem. Is this advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs? To build businesses based on real needs?
Identify the problem and build the solution. People support someone they trust. While building your brand, you are the brand. So, work on you and actively build your credibility.
5. What’s been the most rewarding thing so far?
Seeing the impact of our work on the children and parents.
6. And something that caught you unawares/ surprised you?
What surprised me was how relationships play a huge role, especially in business-to-business sales. There’s a lot of gatekeeping which can be hard for a young person with no social capital to break through. That’s why I always advise the young women I mentor to put a lot of effort into building their credibility alongside their product.
7. How did winning WOTF in 2018 impact your business?
It gave me more social capital and opened me to a network and market I had no access to. I am forever grateful.
8. And what’s the role of insurance in protecting what you’ve built?
I have insured everything personally and with commercial cover. Life is full of uncertainties and having the peace of mind that should the unfortunate happen I don’t have to start from scratch gives me comfort. I would encourage entrepreneurs to never ever ignore insurance. It is as important as having a healthy cash flow.
Santam understands that running a successful business takes years of hard work and the right partnerships. And when you work hard to succeed, you need good and proper insurance that helps you thrive. No matter the type and size of your business, or your vision for it, you can rely on our in-depth expertise of over 103 years to protect it. Santam. Insurance good and proper.
To find out more about our insurance solutions best suited for your business, speak to your intermediary or visit www.santam.co.za.