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:
The above three principles became the pillars around which our basic business skills training course was built.
THE EARLY 1990s
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.
THE START-UP FUND
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.
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!
Ellen Leboko from Sebokeng, outside Johannesburg, is a true Social Entrepreneur.