Day 1 at Driven Entrepreneurs

Today marks my first day of work at Driven Entrepreneurs, a start-up company incubated at the Awethu Project.  But before I begin diving into Driven, I’ll provide some background information on how I even ended up in Africa.  I am currently part of the Emzingo Global Impact Fellowship Program, along with 13 other students from four different universities.

I am ecstatic to begin working.  The day started early with breakfast at 7AM followed by Tshembani driving us to our respective offices.  Tshembani, which means trust, is our driver and he is always such great company!  My group, along with two others, packed into Tshembani’s large van and went one direction, while the fourth student group had their own vehicle, traveling opposite to the rest of us.

Our group was the first to be dropped off at Constitution Hill.  Just a few days ago, we were here touring the area and visiting the museums.  I was confused at first as I did not see any generic “office-like” buildings.  Turns out, our office is located in a historical site.  Driven Entrepreneurs and many other start-up companies are stationed at Constitutional Hill.  More specifically, the Driven office used to be a women’s jail cell during the Apartheid era.  The spaces were redone and is now a comfortable working space, but many features of the site were preserved to serve as a reminder of the past.  Take for example, the windows that still have bars on them and a few walls that are left undone, displaying the bricks during that constructed the prison.

There is something extremely powerful and moving to be able to sit in this space and work in such an environment.  A friend asked me if it was “scary” to be in such a location.  Honestly, not in the least.  Although the reasons for such a location to exist and the occurrences that took place here can be overwhelming to imagine, I think it’s a testament to where we are today on how far South Africa has come.  For the next two months, every time I walk through the doors to work, I’ll be reminded of the history and appreciate the rights we have today.

If just the location held so much meaning, imagine the company that works there!  Driven Entrepreneurs is a social business and a subsidiary company of the Awethu Project.  Driven has three business streams;

  1. School Program: Provides entrepreneurial coaching and support to disadvantaged youth.
  2. In-Community Program: Similar to school program but for an older age group.
  3. Remote Incubator: Separate projects supporting already established entrepreneurs.

Driven is composed of a team of five.  With two managing partners along with three talented team members – each with their own unique backgrounds – Driven Entrepreneurs has a spectacular work atmosphere.  The two managers at the helm of Driven have the most amazing work dynamic – by amazing I mean extremely effective at complimenting one another’s strengths but also a great friendship and fun bantering relationship – and our integration into the company has been extremely welcoming.

Working in a corporate setting last year, this start-up culture is a complete change.   As an undergraduate student, the start-up experience (even as I write this on my first day) is much more hands on.  In our office, everyone sits around one large square table and ideas are shared on the spot.

Our deliverables are primarily marketing based, but given the hands-on nature of the company, we will be able to get involved in many different streams of the business.

It’s going to be a good summer.

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The Zulu phrase of the day is:

Have a good day – ube nosuku oluhle

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