Ask any of his teachers and they will all say the same thing about Yeoville-born Thapelo Motsumi: what a wonderful young man. Attentive, thoughtful and engaged. One of the many casualties of a broken education system, Thapelo (21) was never going to let disadvantages beyond his control stand in the way of personal growth.
Enter the Umuzi Photo Club, a non-profit organisation that aims to teach teenagers in urban, township and rural environments how to become activists and leaders within their community. Although the programme uses photography to give their students a voice, the idea behind the programme isn’t to create hundreds of photographers, but rather to give youth a voice and a chance to make a change in their communities.
This doesn’t mean that no photographers are born along the way. Thapelo joined the programme and quickly realised a love for telling stories through images. After spending a year in the programme, he pledged to work for the agency side of Umuzi, an offshoot of the original foundation.
“When we created Umuzi in 2009 the idea was for professional photographers and media specialists to share their knowledge and expertise with high school students, so that they could find their own voices, learn how to be activists and make a difference in their community,” explains David Dini, the founder of Umuzi Photo Club.
“This has grown to include an agency, which gives the students who really do love photography a platform to hone their skills.”
Blue chip clients of the agency include Volkswagen and Vodacom, and students go through a grading system, from second assistant, to first assistant, and then assistant photographer. “They need to pass certain criteria before they are upgraded to the next level,” explains David. “It’s basically a photography apprenticeship. For our corporate clients it’s a CSI spend, and for our students it’s a way of furthering their education.”
The students are paid for their work, but it’s not a ‘cash in hand’ system. Instead, Umuzi keeps their earnings for further education. For example, Thapelo completed his matric in 2011 and worked for Umuzi to earn money for further education. He has since amassed clients like Marie Claire and Vice in his freelance portfolio, and has been accepted at the world-class Market Photo Workshop, a photo journalism school established by world-renowned local photographer, David Goldblatt. The year-long course will be funded by Umuzi earnings and a bursary.
Leading by example
For David, working alongside Thapelo has been an inspiration. “He’s become one of the breadwinners for his family, while focusing on getting an education and furthering his talents.” He also volunteers as a speaker and teacher in Umuzi Photo Club workshops, encouraging younger learners to become leaders in their communities.
Thapelo’s real strength lies in his quiet humility. “We’ve gained enough traction since we launched Umuzi to become a go-to point for local youth,” explains David. “An advanced photography training programme that was run during the 2010 Soccer World Cup was looking for students and we sent eight learners, including Thapelo, who got press access to events, learnt from international professionals, and ended up involved in an exhibition in Wembley in London as a result.”
Over and above this exhibition, Thapelo has participated in two local exhibitions, and was chosen to receive a gift on behalf of Mandela: a football jersey commemorating the ANC’s 100th anniversary, presented to Thapelo on the Newscastle football pitch in England.
Thapelo isn’t loud, or even outwardly opinionated. He does, however, have a presence, and is fast on his way to becoming an iconic youth in South Africa, not because he says what he thinks people want to hear, but because he leads by example. He has pulled himself through school despite challenges, embraced photography and teaching young community members how to become leaders, and continues to focus on furthering his own skills. After completing his course at the Market Photo Workshop, he plans to learn filmmaking at Big Fish. Step by step, Thapelo is focusing on his future — and helping the country that he represents.
Founded by David Dini, Umuzi Photo Club was established as a non-profit organisation in 2009. It currently has two full-time employees and ten voluntary facilitators, and to date 120 students have passed through the programme.
David and his team identify schools in areas where they wish to make an impact, and then pitch the club to the student body. Candidates are asked to motivate why they want to join the programme — after all, it’s not only hard work, but will hopefully result in the development of community leaders.
“We use photography as a medium through which to teach leadership and activism skills,” says David. “That’s the core focus. The fact that this led organically to budding photographers hungry for more training has resulted in the establishment of the agency, but Umuzi’s core focus is still developing youth. The children of today are tomorrow’s voice, and it’s important that they learn to use that voice.”
An example of this idea in action is the Diepsloot Change Association, a body made up of eight students who are teaching their community about their rights, and demanding improved service delivery. Graduates of the Umuzi Photo Club, these are budding activists who have found their voice.
Visit umuziphotoclub.blogspot.com for more information.
Watch List: 11 Teen Entrepreneurs Who Have Launched Successful Businesses
These teens are proving that you don’t need a driver’s licence – or the ability to vote – to create and execute a successful start-up.
In South Africa youth entrepreneurship is encouraged as the best way to build the economy. Teens are no longer relying on tertiary education to jumpstart their careers, as many high school students become budding entrepreneurs. From make-up to confectionary and tech-centred ventures, youth entrepreneurship is taking the business world by storm.
“It’s easier than ever to become an entrepreneur, and technology has a lot to do with it. You’re a tech-savvy millennial, and Internet and mobile technologies make it easier to connect and identify with people, based on shared values and ideals,” says Michael Freestone, founder of the MJF Group. “All entrepreneurs wonder if their companies will succeed, but you don’t really know until you try. So, do it while you’re young and have little or nothing to lose.”
And that’s exactly what teenagers across the country are doing. While being a teenager is stressful enough, without worrying about marketing and your bottom line – these young entrepreneurs thrive on success, which must be their secret sauce to their winning business ideas.
10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets
The future of entrepreneurship has never looked so bright…these young entrepreneurs share their wisdom around building a successful business.
Natural Talent Can Become Your Success
Thabo Khumalo – ToVch
“I learnt to design and sew while assisting my mother who was a seamstress, and that is when I realised that I had a talent to create,” Thabo Khumalo explains. “But I never knew I was an entrepreneur.” Thabo Khumalo started his company ToVch in 2010 and has since appeared in South African Fashion Week, Soweto Fashion Week and Mpumalanga Fashion Week.
Khumalo has a small but engaged audience, who he communicates directly with. “The brand has a dedicated audience, and the social media presence also allows me to continuously scan the fashion environment to keep up with external forces.”
One of the most challenging aspects of launching his businesses was marketing the brand with limited funds. He used social media and word-of-mouth to market. “On social media, people share your brand with others simply because they want to,” says Khumalo. “It’s a powerful platform, and it does not cost anything.” Khumalo built up his company using support from a strong online network, which became his marketing strategy.
For Founder Of National Tekkie Tax Day Having A Higher (Business) Purpose Keeps Her Driving Forward
The NGO space isn’t easy. It’s a constant uphill battle to connect scarce resources with the vulnerable. Annelise de Jager has persevered in this space because she’s tapped into her personal purpose and values.
- Player: Annelise de Jager
- Initiative: National Tekkie Tax Day
- Launched: 2013
- Visit: www.tekkietax.co.za
Use your purpose to drive you forward
Connect your purpose with what you do, and you’ll find untapped reserves of perseverance and the discipline needed to achieve your goals.
Purpose before profit is not a new concept in business. In fact, it underlines the motivations behind some of the most successful entrepreneurs. It’s also not reserved for social enterprises alone.
However, it is in the social entrepreneurship and charitable spaces that living one’s purpose first found a foothold, mostly because without a strong purpose, the work would just be too hard, and many would give up.
Annelise de Jager, founder of National Tekkie Tax Day, unpacks how she’s used living her purpose to drive her forward, even when she’s faced almost insurmountable challenges and disappointments.
Make ‘living a life that matters’ intrinsic to everything you do.
“I was lucky in that I didn’t ever need to sit down and say, ‘I want my life to matter, so I need to do x, y, z’,” says Annelise. “It was intrinsic for me. However, in the past five years I’ve become acutely aware of it, and I’ve seen how important the ability to look beyond oneself is when you’re facing disappointment and challenges.
“It helps you look beyond the now, find a solution and keep pushing on, because there is a bigger goal at stake. The biggest revelation for me has been that anyone can figure this out and use it as a tool to achieve their dreams and purpose — you just need to trigger your intrinsic motivators.
“Figure out what’s really important to you, and then align this with what you’re doing, in both your business and personal journeys. Robin Bank’s Mind Power and Shaping your Destiny courses are a great place to start.”
Don’t be afraid to ask what’s next
Critical to Annelise’s journey has been the realisation that when goals are met, we need to ask ourselves: What’s next? “Too many people achieve their goals and then feel adrift. You should meet your goals. Your ultimate vision should change. That’s growth, and it’s critical if you want to keep moving forward.
“Our experiences inform our knowledge base and world views, and so as you live and run your business, that view should be changing, bringing with it new challenges and perceptions. Don’t be scared of it; embrace it.”
Annelise went to Potchefstroom University to study social work where she joined the university’s musical revue group, the Alabama Student Company. “Alabama was given the opportunity to tour Taiwan, but I was about to graduate. Travel is high on my personal values list, so I started a second degree in communications to stay in university — and — in Alabama.”
New experiences can be the source of great ideas and strength
Studying communications opened Annelise to a new discipline that she loved. “Marketing and communications are so filled with energy — an energy social work didn’t possess. I loved both, and I wanted to find a way to meld them together. This would ultimately shape my business, The Marketing Team, after I’d been a social worker for a few years. Don’t be afraid to adjust your plans based on new experiences; they can be the source of our greatest ideas and strengths.”
No experience is ever wasted
“We spend too much time trying to plan exactly what we should be doing, where and when, instead of following our hearts and instincts,” says Annelise. “No experience is ever wasted. Once I discovered my love for communications, I questioned whether I’d wasted four years studying social work. I hadn’t.
“Both disciplines became the bedrock of how I would assist the charitable space in South Africa. Experiences open our eyes, our hearts, and our understanding. They give us empathy and patience. They allow us to view things from other perspectives. If you want to really make a difference in other peoples’ lives, these traits are invaluable.”
Be open to finding answers in unexpected places
“By 2004 I felt rudderless,” says Annelise. “I’d been running my own business, handling communications and marketing for NGOs, developing campaigns and even assisting NGOs to run more as businesses than under-funded organisations, but it didn’t feel like I was doing enough.
“Part of the problem was that you can only give people the tools to work with, you can’t make them use them. Another problem was under-funding. Corporates spend billions each year on CSI projects but they don’t like to fund salaries and basic operational expenses.
“It’s frustrating because volunteers can’t do what needs to be done — most households need two breadwinners, which limits the availability of volunteers to assist.
“I was looking for a way to add more value. Should I start my own NGO? Where could I make the biggest impact? I’d been offered an excellent coaching position, which would allow me to walk away from the problems this sector deals with daily. It was tempting, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
“At that time I attended the Global Day of Prayer in Argentina on behalf of a client. It was at that conference that I had an almost supernatural experience. I left knowing exactly what my purpose was.
“How these realisations come to you is less important than the fact that you’re open to them. Deep down I knew what I wanted and needed — I just needed the courage and fortitude to follow my path. My experience in Argentina gave that to me because I allowed it to.”
Always find the strength to persevere.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy. In the NGO space, this is particularly true. “I developed the idea for National Tekkie Tax Day because NGOs constantly asked me to help them develop funding campaigns. I developed this fundraising model when I launched Casual Day and ran the project successfully for 18 years.
“But I also believe the NGO space can benefit from a more unified mindset to overcome donor confusion and fatigue. This is my new focus, but it’s difficult to get organisations to shift their mindsets. National Tekkie Tax Day is a step in this direction.
“It encompasses 12 national NGOs and 1 000 regional organisations across five categories — but there’s one product and one national marketing drive. Donors can choose a category to support.
“I’ve needed to persevere to help NGOs see the benefits in working collaboratively, and corporates to see the benefits of supporting the operational costs of NGOs.
“I don’t have a high profile job at a top company. People don’t call you back in my world. And yet you need to keep pushing forward against incredible headwinds.
“I wake up each morning and repeat the mantra that my success helps everybody; my failure helps nobody. There won’t always be easy wins, but with the right purpose you can persevere. You can make a difference.”
Support National Tekkie Tax Day on 26 May 2017
12 national charities | 1 000 local charities | 5 sectors to support
Animals, Bring Hope, Children, Disability, Education
Available at Toys R Us, Clicks and Babies R Us or online at www.tekkietax.co.za
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