“All the crates that we put down are market-ready, so there is no growing time,” he adds. The FoodPods franchise trains people in the community to sell vegetables to their neighbours, and one community hub can sustain a network of about 50 people who have food and can sell part of their harvest to make money.
“Our traders make a living by waking in the morning; cutting as many bunches of lettuces or spinach or vegetables as they have, and selling them door to door. The moment the crate is empty the trader sends us an SMS and then we drop off another two crates that are market-ready,” Shrimpton says.
This is what the business model looks like. FoodPods is in the business of selling crates, or rather crates of vegetables with (for instance) 24 lettuces at a cost of R24 each. Pop into Pick n Pay, Shoprite or Checkers, and a lettuce would cost about R8 or so a head. Organic lettuce comes at a bit of a premium and costs about R5 more.
“The township trader sells the lettuce for between R48 to R60, and makes a profit of about R30 a crate. Our growers can make about R1 500 to R2 000 a month; but people who don’t want to go out and sell door-to-door make less. Those who wait for people to come to them (like a shop) make about R750 to R1 000 a month,” states Shrimpton.
The price of making the crates isn’t very costly, so this provides a lucrative business for FoodPods, and for the franchisee in each township where a unit is set up. “What we do is to find a high net worth individual who buys the FoodPods licence. Essentially, this wealthy individual is paying for us to find and set up someone in the community to manage the hub. This is how the impact investment is set up,” he says.
It’s a financially sustainable solution for an investor who can fork out money that yields a fair return, and makes the capitalist feel good that these funds are helping to enrich and feed folk in townships who may otherwise have gone hungry. These FoodPods are currently in operation in Philippi and Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, but Heart Capital is looking to set up in Diepsloot near Sandton fairly soon.
Social enterprises are alive, well and mushrooming throughout SA, with a strong concentration in the Cape. Given the poverty, problems with this country’s education system, issues with food security, massive inequality and unemployment to name just a handful of issues, the rise and rise of social entrepreneurs hasn’t arrived a moment too soon.