Daily money

What is Impact Innovation and why is it so powerful?

“We live in the most unequal country in the world. This inequality bleeds through the ecosystem and prevents entrepreneurs from accessing opportunities and funding. Creating a start-up culture in South Africa means creating an enabling community. This is so important.”

Vuyolwethu Dubese is on a mission to drive inclusion and reduce inequality through what she describes as “Impact Innovation”.

In fact, she’s so passionate about the topic that not even a pandemic and global recession could stop her from launching InnovTel, a design impact and consulting studio that aims to create a new renaissance of impact-driven businesses.

InnovTel’s learning platform offers free or affordable courses, e-books, and knowledge-sharing experiences to help entrepreneurs and students build sustainable, innovative, and impactful businesses.

As an inclusive development consultant, Vuyo believes that businesses should be designed for impact and through InnovTel, she works with businesses to design strategies that turn data into collective intelligence that drives inclusive business development.

Vuyo’s passion aligns perfectly with the ‘Inclusion’ pillar of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW2020). Taking place from 16 to 22 November, GEW2020 celebrates the work of start-up champions like Vuyo who are minimising barriers and removing obstacles for entrepreneurs, by maximising inclusion and discovering solutions through access to success stories, training, capital, and mentorship.

Say yes to opportunity

Vuyo is a firm believer in the power of networking and conversation to drive impact and she recalls at least two women who have had a profound impact in her life, simply by sharing an opportunity, or giving advice.

“My high school teacher, Miss Cloete, was one of the most influential people in my life. She chose me as a recipient of a high school scholarship at the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology.”

This, she says, was the starting point. The moment of impact.

It was through this opportunity that others opened up, including completing a leadership programme in the US and meeting Michelle Obama on her first visit to South Africa to engage young leaders.

“My world was opened through those years,” she says. And the best piece of advice she’s received was from Saidah Nash Carter, her former manager at Thomson Reuters, who said, “You did it, didn’t you? I knew you would; now it’s on to the next.”

Since then, Vuyo has produced and hosted an SABC TV show, and has engaged in start-up advisory, business innovation and strategy, and gender parity initiatives at organisations such as Thomson Reuters, the World Bank Group, Standard Bank, the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (GBS), and Foundervine. She became a One Young World ambassador in 2017, has lectured on Impact Innovation at the University of South Africa (Unisa), and has served on the advisory board of Solution Space, GBS’s entrepreneurial hub.

But her first engagement with the entrepreneurial world happened while she was interning at Live Magazine (now Digify Africa), and was introduced to The Hubspace Khayelitsha – and she’s been hooked ever since.

On to the next

Now Vuyo hopes to create similar opportunities for African entrepreneurs through InnovTel’s tools and expertise. “Becoming an entrepreneur is a challenge. Nothing can prepare you for the transition from employee to entrepreneur. Not even consulting.”

Nevertheless, she’s generous with her advice, and offers these top tips for entrepreneurs and start-ups:

  • Understand your needs and your customers’ needs and find a digital solution. “I was able to launch my business in the middle of a global pandemic because it’s completely digital. Choose the best software and partner with businesses that can support you with the technology you need to achieve your goals.”
  • Engage tools of business transformation. “I use Sage Business Cloud Accounting to automate as many of my processes as possible so that I can work on my business. See technology as an investment. My return on investment has been the ability to work across three continents and facilitate virtual sessions that would otherwise need me to be there in person.”
  • Have a savings plan. “Once you have a steady cash flow, start saving 10% to 30% of your earnings, with the intention of re-investing it into the business.”
  • Nurture your network. “Most of your clients will come from referrals. In fact, the opportunities that have come to me and to InnovTel have been through other women in my network who are always connecting the dots. Having women in your network who have gone through, or are going through, the entrepreneurial journey is a blessing.”
  •  Raise a legacy baby. “Businesswoman Thembiso Magajana’s accountant gave her this sage advice: treat your business as if it were a legacy baby. In the same way that you’d invest in the best education for your children, do the same for your business. It’s an investment in your future and your legacy.”
  • Honour the current season in your life. “Relationships and networks are important, but they evolve as people evolve. It’s not personal; it’s called growth. Honour it and move on.”

“Impact is about facilitating shared value and giving customers and stakeholders a reason to re-engage once they’ve consumed your product or service,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to reinvest in your business through your stakeholders in a way that yields not only financial returns, but also product innovation.”