Small business gets a big win thanks to the SAB Foundation

Rolling Inspiration
By Rolling Inspiration
5 Min Read

The SAB Foundation awarded over R9 million to 24 small businesses for their work in social innovations or empowering people with disabilities. These were the winners.

The 24 winners of the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards 2017 were announced in Johannesburg on Monday evening, October 23. The SAB Foundation awarded over R9 million to these incredible small businesses.

The category winners were divided into the Disability Empowerment Awards and the Social Innovation Awards. GreenAble and Brownies & Downies were announced as the joint first-place winners of the Disability Empowerment Awards and each received R1 million.

(From the left) Wade Schultz, Wendy Vermeulen, Dr William Rowland, Ntando Nodada, Bevlan Sudhu, Sarah Ramkumar and Brendan Coopsamy.

GreenAble is a non-profit company that strives to empower and develop people with disabilities, while benefitting the environment. The company trains people with disabilities to dismantle empty printer cartridges into their recyclable components for recycling. It currently employs 34 people.

Brownies & Downies is a coffee shop and lunchroom that serves as a training centre for people with intellectual impairments and employs 36 people. Brownies & Downies provides on-site, work-while-training opportunities consisting of hard-skills, soft-skills and social-skills training.

The team from Smergos proudly pose with their award.

Second place was awarded to Rural Handbikes and Smergos, which were each awarded R400 000. Rural Handbikes manufactures bikes for wheelchair users that are especially designed to be easily assembled and disassembled. Smergos creates a range of wheelchair bags and accessories that provide much-needed functionality through a choice of simple, personalised designs.

Joint third place, with prize money of R150 000 each, are Finger Talk and Proxisee. Finger Talk is South Africa’s first mobile app for learning South African Sign Language (SASL) and the app is aimed at South Africans with hearing impairments and their families and friends.

Proxisee is a mobile app that aims to bring a sense of sight and navigation to people who are blind or have a visually impairment by means of audible (sound) and touch sensitive (vibrations) signals.

GrassBeef, by Livestock Wealth, won first prize for the Social Innovation Awards and was awarded R1,3 million. Developed by Ntuthuko Shezi, GrassBeef offers a healthy way of producing beef that involves the upliftment of rural communal cattle farmers. In second place with R750 000 price money was RailPro, which aims to deliver a lifeline to rural people and businesses with its vehicle that can travel on rail and road.

RailPro also won the SABS Design Excellence award. Third place winners were ChemStart, a mini-science kit for high school learners that contains 52 experiments, and Ivili Loboya, which sources cashmere from local farmers with local manufacturing of textiles.

Development awards of between R300 000 and
R400 000 were awarded to I-Drop Water, Abalobi, Commuscore and the Umgibe Growing System.  The other participants received Seed Grants of R150 000. There were awarded to HearScope, Balambie, Auto Turtle, Iziko Stoves, Vuleka, Smart Agri Solutions, Seebox, Excel@Uni, Timu Trust and the Aqua Test Kit.

(From the left) Ntuthuko Shezi proudly raises his award, watched by Moss Ngoasheng and Ntandokazi Nodada.

“The submissions for this year’s awards have been remarkable. It is our hope that it will go on to provide sustainable and scalable solutions for South Africa and beyond.  We are proud of the role SAB Foundation plays by assisting innovators, both financially as well as with technical and business support through our partnership with The Innovation Hub,” says Bridgit Evans, SAB Foundation Director.

She adds: “To date 114 entrepreneurs have benefitted from the awards, which has resulted in 167 percent increase in jobs and a 245 percent increase in turn-over. We see these awards as the first step in what will be a long and fruitful relationship with these innovators and entrepreneurs. The intention of the Foundation is to see these valuable businesses through to commercialisation to the benefit of all South Africans.”

Do you have a small business that you think might qualify for the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards? Visit the SAB Foundation website at to learn more and submit your entry for 2018.

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