Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cape Town : First Week

View from the top of Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town
In my first few weeks here in Cape Town working at Heart Capital I have dug trenches, put up greenhouses, created business plans, and seen township life up close.

Heart Capital is an impact investment firm that has various ventures they create and maintain within townships. It is a family run company and maintained by volunteers and interns from across the world.

Main Office in the Old Castle Brewery & Table Mountain in the background
(As some context about South Africa, during the apartheid era the native people were moved out of urban living areas, now referred to as townships, to specific regions to separate the races. In these areas there is still a high percentage of poverty, disease, and crime.)

Currently the main two ventures being run are HubSpace and FoodPods. HubSpace is an office space that is available for rent to entrepreneurs. This allows them access to phones, internet, and their own permanent area to work on their company. Along with this, HubSpace also provides interns to do consulting for the entrepreneurs as well as host training sessions where the entrepreneurs can learn basic business principles. The current model to select those that will  run their business there are based off of a business competition held where they present business plans to see if their idea is viable. 

The other venture, FoodPods, creates garden centers that are run by the women in the township. This benefits the women by creating a source of income for them and provides the community with fresh vegetables to help support their dietary needs. Recently, the company got a donation for new more efficient greenhouses, so both main sites for this project are currently under development. 

Sandbag Houses & first steps of building tunnels at Kayamandi
Heart Capital has created a welcoming, very relaxed atmosphere and a sense of empowerment and ownership over your own work. Each intern selects what they want to do with the help of the boss and then set their own goals and deadlines to get what they need to accomplished.  For my work package I am currently developing and implementing a business plan around a new venture Wonder Plant. 

The Main Office: Woodstock Hubspace
Wonderplant would sell and plant the Spekboom plant. Spekboom is a native South African plant that is a great carbon reducer. It can absorb 100 times more carbon than a pine tree the same size. It is able to grow just from a cut off leaf and it can survive drought, fire, and frost. There have been very few campaigns to sell Spekboom as a carbon footprint reducer. The idea was tested once last year by Heart Capital and a chain supermarket store, Checkers, planted these plants at township schools and was very successful. 

Our model would have the people in the township take care of these plants until they have matured and then we would sell them to big companies to plant the trees and have them reduce their carbon footprint. The profit would help sponsor the overhead, fund the other projects that are currently in development, and lift those that will be taking care of the plants out of poverty.

Office Spekboom Plant overlooking Table Mountain

I have made the initial steps to starting this project which included creating reports about the plant as well as starting the marketing material to begin the selling stages as the plant will be ready to be sold in the next month. 

As some of the sites are currently under construction the company has needed interns to go out in the field and get their hands dirty by digging holes, working with tarp, moving crates and plants, supervising workers, and basically a lot of manual labor. I have been on both sites assisting since I have arrived and cannot lift my hands over my head at the current moment. It has been really interesting so far really working inside the community and interacting with the people whose lives we are effecting. I hope to keep up this great experience, start selling the Spekboom soon, and get some real muscles by the end of this trip.
Working on putting up greenhouses in Kayamandi Township

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