The Youth in Business Programme, hosted by the Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn, is home to many innovative businesses and passionate entrepreneurs.
One example is Grace2Learn, a digital agency which focuses on creating a positive social impact in under-resourced communities.
Founded in 2017 by entrepreneur, Brad Sitzer, Grace2Learn provides small businesses with the opportunity to showcase their offering to a global audience. From website development, social media management, data analytics and graphic design, they provide a full offering at a price point one can afford.
“If you have no website presence and are unsure of what’s required, then give us a call,” encourages Brad who is passionate about providing under-resourced communities with alternatives in terms of education and digital tech services.
He adds that the idea for the business came when he recognised a huge problem in the market.
“Many small businesses, development organisations, sports clubs, churches and the like struggle to access good quality services for web development, graphic design, data analytics, email marketing, social media management etc,” he explains.
“This forces leaders of these organisation to take on these activities themselves, at the cost of time away from actually leading the organisations. We saw a need for digital services that are more affordable than a conventional digital agency without reducing quality. Also, because we are based in an under-resourced, high crime community, we can better relate to the digital needs of like-minded organisations wanting to deliver on profit, people and planet improvements.”
When he thinks about the future of his company, Brad wants to be a fully-fledged digital services agency, decentralised across many under-resourced communities across the country.
This includes adding video game development, AR/VR development, music production and app development to their offering, delivering solutions with the lived experience in mind of growing up in an under-resourced, high crime community.
“Part of our vision is also to develop a business model that is sustainable keeping in mind reduced revenue, reduced running costs and the need for impact or donor funding to supplement the revenue.”
Since their journey started, Grace2Learn has had several highlights. Brad shares the story of a teenager who as a high school dropout joined the business in 2017, then went on to complete his schooling in 2019, a virtual internship in 2020, to be a music producer with a successful music company in South Africa.
“He does this from our hub (from home at the moment due to lockdown, of course). Our focus is to be relational in our approach with our clients and so learning the amazing initiatives that are happening through our clients is always a highlight. Working with inspiring clients and for us to deliver successful digital solutions to help them engage more with their clients has been a privilege. One such experience, in developing their website and still doing their data analytics was with schoolinabox.co.za”
However, the journey has had its fair share of challenges.
“There have been times where we felt like giving up. We have a sustainable business model and so this has helped us remain resilient throughout the journey. Knowing who to say yes to and who to say no to is an important entrepreneurial skill needed.
“So many skills that I have developed have been more of the emotional/spiritual intelligence nature than technical expertise. Of course, we are always trying to develop in our technical offering too which is a fun and engaging challenge. We’re continually growing our crowdfunding, which we use to cross-subsidise our reduced rates to our clients, has been a challenge but we will persevere. Bootstrapping has been a liberating experience as it allows us the agency to stay on mission.”
Like many businesses around the world, Grace2Learn has also been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s meant we’ve had to shut down our agency hub. This is sad because we conduct digital training for youth in the community while we deliver value to our clients through our services. Some of the businesses we service monthly have shutdown during this lockdown period which has reduced our revenue too.
“Other than that many people, in this season of COVID-19, are wanting to either revamp their digital presence or start one and so this has meant good business for us which we are super grateful for. ”