Build the Community by empowering the Individual!

Our Journey

32 Years of History


In 1987 there were about 30 000 people per month coming to Cape Town – looking for “umsebenzi.” Of course, when they arrived, there was no work, so they squatted! …..and everybody wished that they would just disappear!


The Triple Trust Organisation was founded to deal with this problem, by empowering unemployed people to become self-employed. Unfortunately, 6 weeks of skills training (including business-skills) did not result in significant economic viability, with only a 20-23% success-rate. Existing business courses made no significant difference. In desperation, a number of existing businesses in and around Cape Town (people who had been trained by TTO) were investigated to determine what made some succeed while others failed.

There were three significant differences between the successes and the failures at grassroots level, in business:

  1. The people who succeeded, managed to find a gap in the market, while others simply copied their neighbours, who were also their competitors.
  2. Traders who succeeded added a mark-up of at least 50% to the cost of their products. Producers (manufacturers) who succeeded added a mark-up of at least 100% to the cost of the raw materials that made up their final product.
  3. People who succeeded in business at this level, invariably had found a method of separating their personal and business finances.

The above three principles became the pillars around which our basic business skills training course was built.


The One-Up business course, renamed Micro-MBA (Managing Business Activities) was developed over 6 years “from the bottom – up,” based on what demonstrably works at grassroots. It has been up-dated regularly since then. Trident Institute was founded  in 1990 to concentrate on developing and marketing the course and IBTT (The Informal Business Training Trust) was the initial training vehicle. 


In 1991, TI started training trainers from other organisations. As a result, nearly 200 000 emerging entrepreneurs have been trained by about 300 organisations throughout sub-Saharan Africa (and lately, in Latin America) since then.  During this period, more than 6 300 trainers have been trained to offer the Micro-MBA course to their clients.


A micro-lending scheme called “The Start-Up Fund” was run between 1993 and 1999 in an attempt to offer start-up capital to the emerging entrepreneurs who had completed the course. After being apparently highly-successful for a while, it collapsed at the end of 1999, with disasterous consequences for a number of NGOs who were offering this service to their clients. 

We have, over the years, become the gurus at what does not work in small and micro-business development!


Trident Institute was re-constituted as a “for-profit” company in March 2 000 and has managed to stay afloat since then.


  • USAID appointed independent auditors who surveyed unemployed people trained in Orange Farm & Bekkersdal in 1995/6. They found that 81% were still economically active 12-18 months after the intervention.
  • A retrospective audit conducted by Mineworkers Development Agency of several thousand retrenched miners trained between 1992 and 1999, confirmed these figures. 
  • A study of several hundred emerging entrepreneurs trained with sponsorship from the Finland/ South Africa Association in 2005-2007, demonstrated similar success-rates.


In 2007, Cedric Buffler was a finalist in the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Awards at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.

In October 2011, Trident Institute was a finalist in the services sector of the Africa SME Awards at Gold Reef City, in Johannesburg.

In 2015, Cedric (on behalf of IBTT and Trident Institute) received an award from Forging Enterprise and the Department of Trade and Industry, for "consistent work in empowering emerging entrepreneurs over a significant number of years."

We have learned to keep going, sometimes despite apparently impossible obstacles and challenges!


Here are some reports from Micro-MBA graduates

Ellen Leboko from Sebokeng, outside Johannesburg, is a true Social Entrepreneur.

Download Training Reports

Some personal feedback from people who have taken the giant step towards taking responsibility for their own economic destinies.

T.B.P. Micro-MBA Testimonies (ppt)


Micro-MBA Tokoza Group (ppt)


Ivory Park Baptist Church (ppt)