Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

One More Week.

One week from now, I will sit in the leather workshop for the boys’ vocational program at Misión Lazaro in San Marcos de Colón, Honduras. Just 5 weeks ago, I sat in my Belmont University classroom and dreamt of the possibility. That afternoon, I received news from the grant committee that I had received a Lumos Travel Award to take on this journey in service and travel with a purpose.

Mission Lazarus is a ministry serving the Honduran community through educational, medical, agricultural, and spiritual outreaches. Their focus on social enterprise attracted my attention 18 months ago. In November of 2014, I purchased a beautifully bound leather bilingual bible stitched together by boys in their vocational school. The following summer, I interned for them, learning the ins and outs of the social enterprise on the U.S. side. In the past year, I’ve seen firsthand the customer desire for their leather products, the growth of sales, and the potential of the social enterprise. There is crazy potential for growth in their social enterprise, but like many organizations across borders, we face issues of supply and demand, quality control, supply chain management and communication. In order to reach more Hondurans, we must increase our sales and focus on consistency, branding, and sustainability.

These are the areas I will be focusing on. In just 4 short months, I will focus on securing suppliers, increasing efficiency measures in product creation, moving all Honduran inventory to an online system, and preparing for the 2017 product launch. While these are large projects to tackle, I’m thrilled to be a part of this team working together to improve and better the business. Only time will tell the stories that await.

It seems like yesterday that I found out I’m traveling to Honduras. These 5 weeks have been filled with adventures in closing the financial gap to take this trip. The gentlemen at Project 615 designed a shirt based on the Honduran flag, and kept the cost low on production so I could resell the shirts to raise funds. It is my hope that each time someone wears their shirt, they are reminded of the trip and are prompted to pray for the boys in our vocational school, the success of the project, and God’s kingdom coming to life in our community.

Additionally, I brought my trip to the attention of my staff at Pure Barre Nashville, where I am an instructor. The support and outpouring from clients and staff in my community has been amazing! Fortunately, I was able to teach a donation class to clients at our Green Hills studio, raising money directly for trip costs. Prayer and encouragement through these women is a vehicle that motivates me as I get closer and closer to my travel.

Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen table with boxes to my right and a stack of potential clothes to pack on the left. It’s been a whirlwind, graduating university and jet setting to a new place. It’s hard to imagine just what it will be like, but I’ve always stood for a good challenge. The Lord will provide for what it needed in this time; good fruit would be brought forth my time in Honduras in the vocational program and in my heart, too. In the space of not knowing, growth happens. You grow in patience as you wait for the path to unfold, you grow in trust as you lean on the faithfulness of God to guide you forward, you grow in joy as the anxiousness transforms to peace, you grow in love as the journey begins to impact your heart and the vantage point by which you view the world. Grow me, God.

For more insight on my trip, visit my personal blog and instagram.

Honduras Tee                           Pure Barre 2                          Pure Barre 1

Jen’s Lumos Journey: Week Two

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” —Marcel Proust

aI came to Africa knowing that my perspective on many things—social change, world issues, and my part in this story—would inevitably shift when met with the reality of living here. The first part of a changed perspective is seeing things as they are, not as you imagined them to be. This week, I found myself encountering a few realities that have helped me to see life here with new eyes. I’ll share a few of those stories with you now. Continue reading

33.33% Capetonian

Four months. It seems so strange that I have been away from the States for this long. Four months also marks my end of TSiBA, my start at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and my family’s visit to South Africa. My first placement has gone by better than I could have hoped for, but I am glad it is not the end of my experiences here. I still need more time and a change of industry to learn more about South African culture, society, history, and future growth.

My team at the Ignition Centre has been like a family. We collaborate closely and genuinely care about each other. The IC has been one of the most positive forces in my South African experience thus far. The office’s humor and creativity has encouraged me to think about entrepreneurship in a more collaborative mentality. My conversations with my colleagues have revealed to me the ways in which South Africans identify and seek to improve local and national social issues.

The largest differences I have seen in South African and western philosophies of social justice are each culture’s perception of poverty. While many Americans’ measurement of poverty is shifting, charity overwhelmingly is used improperly in place of justice due to a belief that poverty is a lack of material wealth. While people in poverty often lack material necessities, many South Africans I work with view poverty as a lack of dignity. This is demonstrative through the aphorism posted on the wall of the Ignition Centre stating “You may be broke, but you are not poor.” Several of my coworkers live in the townships that appear shocking destitute to many Americans—and sometimes they choose to live there. The communities are their homes and the ekasi (the word for township in Xhosa) culture makes up part of the community members’ identity. While living conditions are a direct factor into a population’s standard of living, social issues surrounding housing need to be addressed at physical, intellectual, sociological, spiritual, and emotional levels rather than just throwing money at a problem without proper consideration. While this opinion is not completely foreign to the American mind, I have observed it more frequently here.

My next placement at the SAHRC will also address social and ethical issues in a South African context as I work in the legal division. I anticipate working with legal counselors, interviewing victims of human rights violations and moving through the process of reconciling their complaint.  I also hope to start practicing alternative dispute resolution by assisting the mediation of these cases. SAHRC also has a policy branch, so I am also hoping to visit parliament hearings and report on the minutes.

However, before I transition to the SAHRC, my parents are visiting me for a little over a week. We will be exploring Cape Town, going on safari drives in Kruger Park, and visiting Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia. Please wish us health, safety, and nice weather as we reunite and experience Africa as a family.

Current Affairs at TSiBA Education

Since my start at TSiBA, I have worked on several projects assiting with the solidification of key partnerships. I now see that the, the Ignition Centere’s (IC) work in 2012 is coming to fruition. Until now, due to business sensitive information and unconfirmed commitments, I was unable to share about these partnerships. This year, the University of Stellenbosch (USB) and Business Partners have agreed to work with TSiBA.

To enhance their mission to support Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) and community empowerment through entrepreneurship, USB created a new initiative called the Kyaplain Project. The university will utilize alumni from its business program to mentor entrepreneurs from the Kyalitscha and Mitchell’s Plain townships. Their mentorship will supplement several weeks of accelerated business classes supplied by TSiBA’s IC. As indicated in this article, USB is one of the most prestigious universities on the continent; therefore, the partnership is ideal for TSiBA. Although, TSiBA and USB’s partner is also advantageous for USB because TSiBA is a leader in teaching accelerated courses to survivalist and mirco enterprises.

Like TSiBA’s IC, Business Partners also works to support South African entrepreneurs. However, Business Partners works on a much larger scale and they specialize in capital investments more than business education, compared to TSiBA. As demonstrated through this Prezi I created, TSIBA and Business Partners will work together to increase TSiBA’s service offerings by use of Business Partners mentors, an Small Medium Micro-sized Enterprises (SMME) software toolkit, and capital donations for student company awards. The Prezi also shows what TSiBA’s core program activities are and how entrepreneurship is implemented throughout the degree program.

TSiBA’s BBA degree has three stages of entrepreneurship courses: Entrepreneurship 1 (ENT 1), Entrepreneurship 2 (ENT 2), and Innovations and Knowledge Management 3 (INN 3). Initially, Business Partners wills collaborate with TSIBA’s ENT 2 class. Later, the Ignition Center hopes to have Business Partners work closer with other core activities like the TSIBA/Northeastern University community engagement program. Each summer NU comes for two weeks to TSiBA to assess the businesses of community entrepreneurs while learning more about the South African cultural context. Ideally, Business partners can potentially incubate several of the feasible business models in their hatchery.

Both partnerships have great potential for expansion and will probably last several years to assess the success of the collaboration. I certainly came at a good time to network with other organizations cultivating entrepreneurship in the South African economy. I have not consulted as many businesses as I anticipated, but I have instead spent most of my time writing proposals, creating presentations, and meeting with community partners. The diversity of my work has allowed me to hear many narratives about the South African entrepreneur’s experience, which I find invaluable.

Mango Groove and Matriculation

Kristenbosch Botanical Gardens

During a Thanksgiving celebration, I met some Capetonians who pointed me in the direction of a local tradition. In the summer, the Kristenbosch botanical gardens come alive. Every Sunday, people pour into the gardens for a picnic and a concert. This Sunday was no different, except my friend Hannah and I decided to join the crowd.

Hannah and I in the Mango Groove crowd

We made a day out of the event and arrived early for a picnic. Thanks to Hannah’s delicious contributions, we enjoyed a salad, fruit salad, and sandwiches containing salmon, cheese and avocadoes. To create space for our plethora of food, Hannnah and I (slightly awkwardly) sat in the middle of the meadow. After a time, people started sitting next to us. Finally, we noticed that random groups of people had created a line of picnics in front and behind of us. While surrounded, a group of concert-goers approached us as asked us which end was the beginning of the queue. Apparently, these South Africans did not know what to do with our random picnic placements and they just assumed that we had created the line for gate and crowded around us.

People awkwardly creating a line around us

Our unintentional picnic placement got us prime seats for the concert, allowing us to save room for nine other friends. After enjoying delicious food, incredible wine, and lovely company, we were finally able to enjoy the sounds of the classic South African band, Mango Groove. I don’t have much frame of reference to be able to describe their music, but what others told me is that they are a fusion of township jazz with Afrikaans vocals. Apart from their sound, the vibe of the band reminded me of a South African version of Wham.

Mango Groove

Mango Groove is only one of the many ways music pervades the South African culture. In many different communities, music is not only present, but also a central part of traditions and activities. On Tuesday, I joined Abe and Cindy, members of TSiBA’s Ignition Centre, to attend an Ekasi Academy matric (graduation) in Khayelitsha. The word “ekasi” translates from Xhosa[1] as “township,” identifying the Academy as a place of learning for township community members. Cindy is the TSiBA lecturer for accelerated classes at the Ekasi Academy and she teaches courses like Business Essentials, Business Plan Writing, and Financial Management. December 5 marked a significant day in the lives of several students as they crossed the graduation stage.

Ekasi Academy and Silulo Ulutho Technologies matriculation

The ceremony was far different than any graduation I have attended because the graduates, their friends, and their family all seemed to actually want to be there. Let me clarify by adding that most American students are glad to finally graduate and their loved ones almost always want to experience that moment with them; however, the ceremony itself is usually an event I would only take someone to if I wanted to punish them. Most graduations are long, drawn out occasions that mostly consist of attendees waiting for the 30 seconds of recognition the graduate receives by walking across the stage.

A former student speaking to the new matrics

The Ekasi Academy graduation was an entirely different matter. The ceremony was prolonged before and after each speaker when the graduates would burst into mighty unison of Xhosa melody, singing in honor of the guests. The sporadic singing continued throughout the program for the people the crowd recognized. Before my manager, Abe’s turn to speak, he leaned to Cindy and asked, “Who is going to sing for me?” Cindy replied, “Lindsey I guess,” then they both died laughing. They know me well.

True to their name, the Heavenly Quartet

After Abe’s motivational speech, a traditional Xhosa choir sang several pieces before a local band called the Heavenly Quartet came on stage. The four men sang with such soul, humor, and passion, that the crowd remained standing and danced along to the songs (not that the crowd did not do that most of the time anyways). After Cindy gave certificates to her graduates, we left the ceremony early since it was guaranteed to last for several hours longer. While making our clandestine exit, a couple people rushed us with muffins and cans of juice to take with us.

Traditional Xhosa Choir

Hospitality was also prevalent throughout the event while members from the community, Ekasi Academy, and Silulo Ulutho Technologies welcomed our Ignition Centre team. The entire event was coordinated by one of TSiBA’s key partners and facilitator of the Ekasi Academy, Silulo Ulutho Technologies. Luvuyo Rani, one of the organization’s founders, originally created the company to sell affordable computers to disadvantaged communities. After an unsuccessful trial, he realized that the venture needed to also educate the market about how to use the computers he was selling. This lead to the creation of e-cafes and computer training classes all over the Western Cape, later forming the large crowd of graduates I met on Tuesday. The graduation lasted for two days in order to properly recognize and appreciate each member of the graduation and their stakeholders.

Luvuyo Rani, a founder of Silulo Ulutho Technologies


[1] Xhosa is the language of the Xhosa people. During apartheid, almost all of the Xhosa people suffered horrific oppression, cruelty, and violence whether individuals passively accepted their degradation or if they fought for their rights and dignity. Townships, like Khayelitsha, are products of the inhumane, white supremacist government that displaced people in areas according to race. However, the continuation of townships post-apartheid remains a complex issue as many members choose to stay in informal settlements.

“Igniting Opportunities”

While packing for South Africa, I had difficulty selecting clothes would be the most appropriate for Cape Town climate and culture. My main solution was to pray and pack a vast variety of outfits. While I am far from dressing like a Capetonian, my clothing fit well with my recreational and work activities. The business casual atmosphere of my work placement made my packing selection even easier since I have been able to wear the same clothes for work and social settings.

One of many indicators that I was at the right place

However, my placement at TSiBA has been appropriate for far more significant reasons than closet compatibility. The Tertiary School in Business Administration (TSiBA) is pronounced the same as a Xhosa word meaning “to jump.” (This is the language of the Xhosa people, who make up a large percentage of the Cape Town population.) The school provides Bachelors of Business Administration degrees and majors in entrepreneurship very similar to my own. Instead of paying tuition, the school raises funds for the students and they earn their degree by completing community service in replace of their fees. This allows more students from low income communities to receive the same privileges of affluent scholars. TSiBA’s curriculum is demonstrably successful, shown by its production of five Mandela Rhodes scholars for the previous five years (similar to a Rhodes Scholar in the States).

Sonja’s desk, the gateway to the Ignition Centre

My position resides in the TSiBA Ignition Centre which is home for all entrepreneurial activities and the mission to “ignite opportunities.” The Centre manages the academic curriculum for the entrepreneurship major as well as the Centre’s members, consisting of entrepreneurs from the local community. As Director of the Centre, Mr. Oliver manages the program activities, Ms. Hagins works as the Coordinator of the Centre, wearing many hats, and Ms.Krawe is in charge of growing the Ekasi Academy program. Ekasi students are entrepreneurs in the township Khayelitsha, who take Accelerator Venture courses to develop their enterprise ideas. I support these individuals and the Centre’s program activities as the Ignition Centre intern. The Ignition Centre’s culture is a happy fusion of warmth and professionalism, leaving me grateful and comfortable at TSiBA.

Cindy and My workspace. My desk is on the left and hers is straight ahead.

My assorted tasks have given me a diverse exposure to entrepreneurship in South Africa. The Centre is very mobile, allowing me to visit many of TSiBA’s partners and community events. The first trip I took out of the office was to Khayelitsha to listen to Ekasi students’ business pitches. This was my first week at work and my first encounter with life inside a township. To hear more about my experience, feel free to read the blog posts I wrote for TSiBA HERE (just look for my byline at the bottom of the last four articles). Along with this post, you will find three other post describing my trip to Cape Peninsula University of Technology CPUT), and my observations of student business pitches.

Abe captured in his creative environment

Apart from those events, my other external visit was with a well established micro-lending firm in the City Bowl. While it is early to discuss many of the details from the meeting, I can say that it went so well that I received two chocolate chip muffins and an orange juice carton to celebrate the success of our team. Since the meeting I have created a Prezi and an excel spreadsheet, further defining the potential start of a new partnership.


Stay tuned to hear if I receive a third muffin for my work...