Interview with Executive MBA participant Deborah Woodford

February 3, 2016

Interview with Deborah Woodford , who is currently following IÉSEG’s Executive MBA program, following the recent EMBA learning trip to South Africa.

Could you please tell us about your recent EMBA learning trip and in particular your visit to the township of Khayelitsha?
We were 14 Executive MBA students who recently went on a learning trip to South Africa in November 2015, destination Stellenbosch University.  We were there to study amongst other things social entrepreneurship and we went all the way from Waterfront to Township in our search for what makes this dramatically beautiful country of extremes tick.

In the Township of Khayelitsha we had the privilege of working alongside 3 local social entrepreneurs.  Business leaders who showed exceptional persistence and faith in a difficult environment:  The Department of Coffee, Espinaca Innovations and Heavenly Quartez.

Deborah Woodford

Executive MBA participant Deborah Woodford

What was striking about these social entrepreneurs?
One could ask why would a coffee shop be socially entrepreneurial?  His slogan is : ‘We make coffee and we make it with love’!  In the time it takes to build his business from 250 coffees (current sales) a day to a potential of 9000 coffees a day (that’s the amount of people going past the door) he provides local employment and dreams of setting up a Coffee Academy one day to educate staff and customers.

Espinaca Innovations is a health food bakery making amongst other things spinach bread.  We need to ‘Make food our friend’! is one of his concepts for Khayelitsha.  His dream is to be able to buy some land and move up the supply chain and produce his own ingredients (a spinach farm). This would enable him to avoid being dominated and restricted by the big cooperatives.   You can see his wonderful video on the blog we have created.

Heavenly Quartez is a business where the business owners are actually a male choir and they have branched out into events management.  They sing opera and adapt it to local songs in a township where there is no formal music training available.  You can see a sample on our blog. They have the dream of setting up a music school for children after school from 2pm to keep them off the streets as there is such a love of music and so much talent in Khayelitsha.

Have you been in touch with the entrepreneurs since coming back to IÉSEG?
The emotional journey we took in discovering these businesses has now been documented on a blog set up to record our experiences ‘Ideas for Change : South Africa’.We are also looking to raise some funds for these entrepreneurs as a small encouragement for them to keep going, keep trying and for Edith Kennedy from the University of Stellenbosch for all her good work in helping these businesses flourish.  These remarkable entrepreneurs would say to people suggesting they take their business out of Khayelitsha, that they want to stay in their community and help make it a better place.  This commitment and community spirit is a remarkable fact given the conditions in the Township.

We have already been given some donations and pledges from Optique de L’Arche in Courbevoie and Bertrand Gaillard, an IÉSEG Executive MBA student and entrepreneur in the area of adult education and teaching initiatives,  in addition to Holy Trinity Charitable Giving Committee, and we hope to bring in more funds shortly. For a complete list of donors, please view Deborah’s Facebook group ‘Ideas for Change : South Africa’.