Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY -

“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.

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