My Journey to Social Enterprise


Wendy Arendse is co-founder of Thinking Empire – a social enterprise dedicated to providing experiential learning opportunities for children aged 7-14.

In 2016, she attended our Journey to Social Enterprise programme. Below, she shares her experience of growing her organisation from a donor-dependent charity to a sustainable social enterprise.

There is so much confusion around the concept of social entrepreneurship in South Africa. The struggle to define it has left many potential social entrepreneurs such as myself, hanging.

On discovering the Social Enterprise Academy, I leaped at the chance for clarity on social enterprise and its place in South Africa. The Journey to Social Enterprise programme was a perfect opportunity for personal development and learning more about social entrepreneurship.

Our Need for Sustainability

With a stronger focus on development and sustainability in South Africa, we could alleviate so many of our current challenges and bridge the inequality gap caused by current socio-economic climate. We could finally elevate ourselves from the “Bottom Billions”.

Prior to June 2016, my view was that social enterprises were the ‘unicorns’ of the business world – something rare and complex of which I had heard of but had limited experience and understanding. The complexity involved in establishing such an entity, proved overwhelming for my co-founder and I. For two years we were struggling with our idea to deliver a product we see as a great social niche, but without the need for constant fundraising. It became evident that we needed to establish a business with a desire to drive social impact that was self-sustainable and focused on its social objectives.


My Programme Experience

It all started taking form after the second session at the Social Enterprise Academy. Prior to that first module, we were an unregistered entity, with a tested offering and very limited business acumen.

The help, support and knowledge I encountered on this 5 month programme was instrumental in our rapid progress. I consider myself very fortunate for having attended a programme of such caliber. Working with you the Social Enterprise Academy was a great learning experience for me and my team at Thinking Empire.

I enjoyed the many insightful and informative guest speakers who helped us catapult our organisation forward. Each session it was transformational, I gained so many new insights to share with my team and learn from in a practical manner. I really value the knowledge and insights gained. The peer-to-peer learning opportunity became a crucial resource, which I still tap into today.

Since completing the programme, we have:

  • Attempted our first crowdfunding campaign.
  • Presented our 8 week goal attainment programme in 2 schools in the Cape Flats.
  • Registered as a hybrid model.
  • Developed a 1 page business plan, which proves to be a dynamically powerful tool using the Flow Canvas 1-Page Business Planning Tool.


Learning and Looking Forward

My team and I are very enthusiastically building our social enterprise on a part time basis and plan to rollout the concept on a fulltime basis in every primary school in the Cape by 2018.

This is the most significant learning we have encountered, with the opportunity to be coached by social entrepreneurs and those who have gone before us. The social enterprise approach is not a shift away from the mission of our organisation, but instead a focus for it. If you need to demystify the workings of a social enterprise - try the Social Enterprise Academy and be the change you want to see.

I give credit to the programme for many of the milestones we have achieved in such a short period and for inspiring me, for making me think, believe, trust, help, learn, create, contribute, give back and love. I can also attribute some of my own personal and professional growth to meeting and learning with such amazing people.


To learn more about how we can help you and your organisation on your social enterprise journey, visit our current programmes page.

Cape Town programmes starting March 2017.