A taste for youth empowerment

In a country with limited government and corporate funding for NPOs, some believe social enterprises are a more sustainable way of overcoming social and environmental challenges

Boitumelo Mogoai and Tinyiko Mareane, the founders of Nik Muffins, are among those using business to make a difference.

Although their venture is registered as a private company, they run it as a social enterprise. “We bake and sell assorted muffins, basic and branded cupcakes and a variety of themed cakes. Then we use 25% of the profits to fund the Nik Muffins Girls’ Club,” says Mogoai.

The club currently offers mentorship, life skills and career guidance to high school pupils from around Diepkloof and Orlando, Soweto. “During our meetings, we usually have set topics for our discussions, [but are careful not to] impose solutions on the girls. At the end of each discussion, we wrap up by going on a educational excursion or calling in an expert or an organisation to address the girls on the subject,” explains Mogoai, who holds a BCom Accounting degree. The funds raised from the muffins pay for these events, as well as research.

“We decided that instead of asking for funding and having an NGO, we wanted to have a business and be in control of how much we give back,” she adds. The Nik Muffins Girls’ Club is funded solely by the social enterprise. “We initially injected 100% of our profits into the social programme, but we realised that we need to run and expand the business. We don’t take any profit-sharing at the moment.”

In 2014, instead of gunning for top corporate jobs, the university friends decided to focus their energies on empowering the youth.

Mareane – who also has a background in financial academia, with a BCom Economics – knew while she was still a student that her passion lay in helping young people make informed choices. “I selected my economics courses knowing what I was getting into, but meeting other students who weren’t as knowledgeable had a profound effect on me. Hearing that students had picked the first courses they saw or the ones someone had told them to do made me determined to bridge that gap. All students should have enough information about the courses available, their planned career paths and their aptitudes before they enrol at university,” she says.

With a passion for teaching, she says her dream is to mould more independent thinkers and problem-solvers across Africa, with Nik Muffins clubs. Its business model currently relies on social media marketing and referrals.

  • To purchase muffins, visit the Facebook page: @Nikmuffins

This article first appeared on the April issue of DESTINY.