When you think about the term ‘entrepreneur’, what comes to mind? Major business oligarchs? Wealthy business moguls? Well think again! The idea of entrepreneurship is no longer a forlorn and unachievable dream. In the United Kingdom, there is a major drive to embed entrepreneurship into University curricula. In today’s post, we had the pleasure of interviewing Derek and Keara Mafohla, founders of ‘Graduate Rejects’, a social enterprise with the aim of improving educational standards for young children in Zimbabwe.
APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background?
DM& KM: The founders of Graduate Rejects are siblings Derek and Kearabiloe Mafohla. Derek is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Greenwich studying Computer Science whilst Keara Mafohla is a final year student at the University of the West of England studying Biomedical Science.
Can you give an overview about your business or enterprise?
Initially we formed Graduate Rejects as a charity in November 2011 but in January 2013 we adopted the social enterprise model.
Photo Credit: Nelson Vinod Moses
When we began, we concentrated on a small community in Tshabalala, Bulawayo the second largest city in Zimbabwe. We noticed that there was little educational activity within the community which left children and young adults engaging in drinking and other activities that made no contribution to a successful future. We (Graduate Rejects) decided to donate books to local schools and libraries with the hope of developing and encouraging a reading culture within the community.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
Our love for children and knowledge of the poor education systems they were exposed to were our biggest inspiration. Some schools in Zimbabwe have outdated educational systems and infrastructure. The resulting impact is that children fall into a cycle of attending school for a minimum of 11 years but failing to study further or achieving good grades. We are of the belief that if we are able to encourage proper and more modern ways of studying, children who cannot afford a good education can adopt self-study techniques. Importantly, we embrace the importance of a holistic approach to meeting the educational needs of children.
How important has social media and networking been to your business?
Interestingly for the past year we have been trying to raise money to build a website for our enterprise. We greatly acknowledge the importance of social media as it has helped us promote our work. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been our social media platforms of choice since they are free and easy to set up. We engage with a lot of people whenever we write any posts but also we are constantly seeking to learn from others who are interested and willing to share with us.
What are the challenges, if any, you face?
We come from a politically volatile country and whatever form of business or charity you choose, you have to bear that in mind. Shipping costs for the books we donate has always been and remains our biggest challenge. We find that many people are willing to donate books to us but the costs to ship the books are often prohibitive. We are self-funded and that also presents its own challenges. We also think finding the right model for children and adults to get actively involved to further improve study is often tricky but we are dynamic and open to ideas on how to actualise this.
Have you made any mistakes and what lesson(s) did you learn?
Expecting things to work accordingly! It is important to remember that things do not always go to plan but to remember that obstacles do provide an opportunity for personal development and learning.
Finally, what advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
In our experience so far, we suggest that if you are considering starting a business or social enterprise, keep a journal and document all your activities. This provides ‘fodder’ for reflection which is a useful learning tool. Finally, don’t give up when you are faced with challenges.
Please can you share your contact details
We can be reached on:
Facebook: Graduate Rejects Enterprise