Sandra Myambu: Uplifting young people through social entrepreneurship

sandra myambu
Sandra Myambu is working towards giving school-leavers the skills that will make them employable Click To Tweet

Sandra Myambu is currently a Portfolio Programme Analyst at Dimension Data where she is involved in delivery and support of global, strategic projects. She is also the MD for Masana Social Innovations. During her university years, Sandra joined Enactus as Project Manager then Vice President. She also volunteered as a Skills Development Trainer and Project coordinator at an NGO.

When Sandra began working for Dimension Data, she still wanted to continue having an impact to society. By seeing the number of graduates increase in parallel with youth unemployment, the idea for Masana Social Innovations was stimulated. Sandra found out from various research exercises that many graduates lacked skills that deemed them employable, especially in the ICT sector. This is when she started Masana Social Innovations to uplift young people.

Sandra shares with SLA contributor, Anelisa Kasper her challenges and motivators of starting Masana Social Innovations with a full-time job. 

How has your journey/transition from corporate to entrepreneurship been like?

As I’m currently still in corporate and have recently started with Masana, my transition into entrepreneurship hasn’t been hard. Masana’s aim is to use technology innovations to enable the civil society, corporates and state entities to deliver sustainable social solutions to communities. This will be achieved through bridging the skills gap in the ICT industry with a key focus on women, through the facilitation of various skills development programmes.

This doesn’t mean it will be easy for everyone, as experiences vary from one person to the next. I haven’t had to transition as much. The most important thing was to find a balance between my corporate and my entrepreneurship venture. I have always been involved in entrepreneurial activities so juggling my job and my new business is familiar territory. There have been serious adjustments, where Masana and my job are demanding at the same time. What has helped me keep the balance was to be able to effectively manage my time. As I am the MD of Masana, it’s easier to manage my work and assign work to myself that also ensures that my job does not take major strain.

Sandra Myambu found out that many graduates lacked skills that made them employable Click To Tweet

What have been your hardest moments, and how have you overcome them and still overcoming them?

I have big dreams and aspirations for Masana as a social enterprise, and not just as an NGO. Articulating my vision for the organisation has been one of the biggest challenges to date. What I’ve learned from trying to explain that vision is putting it into smaller goals, e.g. this is where Masana is going this year in order for it to get where Masana ultimately needs to be.

Articulating the vision to people will still be a problem in the future because Masana is trying to use innovation to drive real social change. The issue is that people are still not ready to invest in social innovation or community programmes. The hope is that reaching out to more people in smaller scales and trying to explain the vision will help in increasing the buy-in.

One of the major challenges that Masana is still experiencing is getting the right buy-in from the right people. It takes time to establish those relationships and to most importantly, maintain them. Common ground and common interest are key in getting buy-in from investors for your business.

Sandra Myambu: I've always had entrepreneurial activities so balancing is familiar Click To Tweet

What keeps you going in making sure you make Masana Social Innovations an even bigger success?

It’s about knowing how whether small or big the initiatives Masana has, they are valued and they have a real impact on young people and the community. Recently, Masana hosted Africa Code Week in October. During the code week, Masana trained over 600 young people on basic coding skills. In addition, 60% – 70% of the participants were women. The programme had a big impact, and has opened up more women to coding, even if it’s starting at basic coding skills.

The initiatives that Masana holds have had a big impact. Not just to impart people with coding skills which are essential, but also to make people realise that technology is also essential. The success of a business can also be determined by the technology you choose to run your business with.

Uplifting young people is a motivator for continuing with my entrepreneurship venture. My target market has been young people from under-serviced communities and previously disadvantaged areas. Uplifting young women who do not believe they can get the same opportunities that our male counterparts receive. Most importantly, to uplift these young women in believing that they can do well in the world of tech.

According to @_WisaniSandra people aren't ready to invest in social innovation Click To Tweet

Who have been your biggest supporters through your journey? How have they been supportive?

My biggest support system is my family, my friends and a few of my colleagues. I have also received support from mentors in my professional and academic life, and conferences. Those mentors have played various roles in different stages of  my life. My mom and sister have been the most supportive where I’m able to bounce off ideas with them.

What has also helped has also been surrounding myself with friends that are also entrepreneurial and who have similar interests.

Attending the #SheHiveJoburg event this November, in that short period of time, meeting amazing, young black woman who are also visionaries and have aspirations of their own. Those ladies have become key individuals in my networks.

Masana is uplifting young women who don't believe they can get the same opportunities men receive Click To Tweet

What are your plans to ensure that Masana reaches a bigger audience and brings value to more people?

Masana is still at it’s very beginning stages. So far, we’ve successfully implemented the Africa Code Week initiative. A SAP Skills Development programme is in the works. It’s important that we also become more present, especially in the digital space. Growing digitally will, in essence, help in reaching bigger audience.

We’re also targeting learners from matric, so that they know about Masana and get acquainted with our skills initiatives. We’re working towards ensuring that the skills that school-leavers get are not only from university, but we also provide programmes that will make learners employable.

@_WisaniSandra - Ditch the dream & start doing. Start small, start messy, just start Click To Tweet

Any advice for Motherland Moguls?

A quote from Shonda Rhimes from her speech at Dartmouth University; “The most interesting, happy, creative and engaged people are the ones who are doing”. Ditch the dream, and start doing. You don’t have to start when you have all the resources, or the right connections, or in the right space. You just need to start. Start small, start messy but you just need to start. Eventually you’ll get used to the idea that you are working towards something and all the right resources and networks will come.

At Masana, we don’t have all the right resources but the important thing is that we have started and people are showing interest in our initiative.

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