The impact of the global pandemic has been engaged through various lenses, including that of the economic impact on women, small businesses and the imprint of digital transformation, and national government preparedness and response strategies on what has been a turbulence that has resulted in a loss of life, funds, and intensified public sector engagement and call for collaboration. A new lens engaged by the Sage Foundation, spotlights the impact on over 4000 businesses, its leaders, and employees, and how they have and are driving and thinking about corporate philanthropy.

In their Harvard Business Review essay entitled “The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy”, scholars, Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer excellently paint the inception of the term, how the business practice has evolved over time, and the (potential of the) value created from strategic, focused corporate philanthropy and how it can drive company competitiveness beyond the outlook of charity. One of the latter arguments that the essay makes prominent, is the obscene vapidness that the true aspiration of this business engagement loses itself to, resulting in this chilling statistic from the People Powering Change Report by the Sage Foundation on the effect and residue of the pandemic, and that is how businesses’ engage in philanthropy, with 64% reporting that funds for corporate philanthropy have already been cut – or will be cut in the coming 12 months.

But what if corporate philanthropy wasn’t a charitable drive? Instead, an opportunity to invest in not only the public image of the company, but to strategically support the business’ bottom line and how it contextualises its corporate social responsibility to strengthen its competitiveness for its engaged stakeholders.

“My company encouraged volunteers to assist individually in their local communities. People also opted for money donations as opposed to the usual giving of time. My organisation matched the money donations received.”

At the end of 2020, the Sage Foundation commissioned Kantar, a leading  data, insights, and consulting company to conduct a global study of business leaders and employees on corporate philanthropy and its current state. The findings of the report were anchored on unpacking the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on corporate philanthropy, to challenge the relationship between purpose-led businesses and engaged employees, and to standardise the various four markets (of Sage) in South Africa, United Kingdom, United Sates and Spain. Here is what the report has informed us about corporate philanthropy:

1. COVID’s Negative Impact on Corporate Philanthropy Investment

For corporates, the impact of the pandemic has been felt mostly by the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Corporate Social Investment (CSI), and Socio-Economic Development (SED)  departments, often observed through the singular lens of expenditure and non-revenue generating business activity. As such, the study reveals that 64% of the interviewed business leaders believe that COVID will impact on their businesses’ ability to invest in corporate philanthropy in the long term, and as a further consequence, 49% of the business leaders believe the ripple effect of reduced investment will cause a delay in progress being made against reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Where does your company stand?

In South Africa, according to the latest data published by the latest Trialogue Business in Society Handbook, corporate philanthropy investment grew by a marginal 1,2% in real terms from R10,2 billion in 2019 to an estimated R10,7 billion in the 2020 financial year.

2. A Company’s CSI Engagement Matters

Who engages on the billions of dollars, globally, that companies invest in? One of the 4000 group of stakeholders that the People Powering Change Report by the Sage Foundation engaged, was socially responsible employee. Globally, 58% employees referred to an organisation’s commitment to corporate philanthropy being a priority to choosing the company that they end up working for; and even through 2 out of 3 businesses do not offer volunteering opportunities to their employees during paid working hours, 1 out of 3 business leaders have felt the increased pressure from their employees since March 2020 to support the local communities.

“Great Management that gives the right level of autonomy and support. Great tools that allowed me to do onboarding remotely, great culture of the company that communicates a lot, and Sage Foundation is the cherry on the cake. Very happy to be part of this great company.”

3. The Opportunity to Redefine Corporate Philanthropy

For the Sage Foundation, their 5 paid volunteer days provides the business with a differentiator for their talent acquisition attraction strategy, a context-based objective that participates in the broader purpose-led business agenda of Sage.

Financial services company, Investec’s CSI strategy engages through the lens of education and entrepreneurship as they see these two pillars being “critical to creating employment and socio-economic growth in South Africa.” During the pandemic, Investec invested their corporate philanthropy through the Solidarity Fund, the YES programme with 1440 interns receiving funding and for entrepreneurs, supporting Uconomy.

“Sage Foundation is excellent -5 days a year each for everyone to give back to our charities and communities is great. This is only part of a good benefits package you get for working at Sage.”

The rise of smartly investing in corporate philanthropy, paired with the commitment to SDGs and strategically engaging with stakeholders like employees and investors, enlightens us how far the school of CSI thought has come. A business led by operating with purpose at the center, with an inclusive and diverse way of consulting is sure to grab the opportunity to redefine how it innovatively engaged in corporate philanthropy, and not just for the community it aids, but those who can volunteer their time and money.


In Conclusion

“Employees are keen to keep their commitment to volunteering despite the global health crisis with almost all (97%) employees saying that disadvantaged people and non-profits needed support now more than ever due to the pandemic. Over half (57%) go even further than that and say they would volunteer their own time money to the organization or initiative that their company supports.”

From the People Powering Change Report and the case studies provided, it is clear that corporate philanthropy’s role and impact is well understood and articulated by stakeholders involved and engaged. It benefits the company’s triple bottom line, provides an elevated attractiveness and competitiveness from a talent acquisition and retention strategy, and introduces capabilities of strategically and smartly investing in company growth.

Does your company care, how does it engage philanthropically? As an investor, employee or business leader, does this matter to you?

I’d love to hear from you!






 On 7 July 2020, I was greeted by an email in my inbox with the subject line “Software Company Content Campaign”, followed by an urgent request outlining the impact of my work in industry. A few negotiations and months later, this would be the birth of a partnership now known as #SageForSmallBiz with multinational enterprise software company, Sage.

Six months later, and we’ve designed a conversation engaging with innovators, entrepreneurs, financial practitioners on themes of digital transformation, financial strategy and business innovation for the optimization of successfully running your business.

To mark this 6 month landmark, I’ve decided to share some of my 6 favourite moments and resources from the #SageForSmallBiz conversation:

Announcement of the Partnership

This was a conversation and partnership that was months in the pipeline, and I’d had a relationship with a few of my current colleagues, so when we hit the ground running, it was like a aligned well-oiled machine. This lead to getting profiled on the Sage website, engaging on the value of impact innovation.

Smart Money Tribe

The prospect of being in such a partnership meant that the #SageForSmallBiz stakeholders like yourself, were looking for value-add that wasn’t just centred around my expertise of being in business innovation, but also to engage on shared experiences. This is why, when I had the opportunity, I brought in my smart money tribe who are investors, entrepreneurs, venture builders to talk about their financial strategy that they use in their businesses, and treating their entities like legacy babies.

The Evergreen 30 Day Sage Trial

As a founder of a small business, managing your expenses and income is often afforded by the affordability and accessibility of an Excel spreadsheet. As you move your business from stage of growth to another, and you cannot afford to be inputting on excel at every purchase because more high-level prioritise require your attention, or the services of an accountant, the attractiveness of automating your accounting software becomes more alluring. This is why the Evergreen Sage Business Cloud Accounting Start 30-day FREE trial is one of my favourite resources from Sage.

“Accountants don't come cheap and as a startup, you generally have a very minimal budget in the early stages of your business. So Use accounting software to remain organized.” – Tinyiko Simbine, CFO and Co-Founder of GirlCode


Trust me when I say that takes a village to raise this conversation. From my fellow brand partnership colleagues, to the Sage engine that ensures we get our wish list to give you the best engagement and resources, getting on the monthly calls and strategy sessions definitely make the journey to work on this campaign a better delight.

Small Business Toolkits

If you’re not a big fan of reading articles or joining webinars, Sage has curated a few toolkits that are consumable and practical for founders in their first year, to creatives who are struggling with the jargon of the business and finance world. My top 3 would have to be:

Elevating after 6 Months

We have a special project coming in the next few months that will engage the tough economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through digital transformation, financial strategy and business innovation. I cannot wait to share this with you.


What have been some of your favourite moments and resources from the #SageForSmallBiz conversation? Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you and the value derived for your business or idea. Keep following the hashtag and for more information and updates.

“Such valuable information! 

Thank you for breaking it down, BUT not dumbing it down. We’re learning as we go and grow #SageForSmallBiz.” - Phumeza Langa, Host of #SistaHoodHour


What a week it’s been for women across the globe. You’ve probably been asked to engage in a number of events employing your expertise on panel discussions, or you’ve attended a few that spoke to the number of key interests in your present society, expertise and/or as a self-identifying woman. I hope it was worth it, and I hope that capital found its way to you via committing to these engagements, because that is what truly this day is all about, and has been for 110 years since its inception.

As per IWD, “International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.” The day is about creating visibility about women’s successes and challenges, and an opportunity to showcase the economic value of what investing in an equitable future (could) mean socially, economically, culturally and politically, especially at the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was a part of several engagements this week, two included topics which are their own pandemic: Gender Based Violence and Gender-lens Investing. I had the pleasure of moderating these engagements, and what is abundantly clear, is that there is more than enough data (at some point, the South African Deputy Minister of Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, Pinky Kekana and I were referencing the same data points), as just as enough capital across the private and public sector. It is just not matching the urgency to invest and deliver at the intersection where women are impacted fast enough.

There’ve been many lessons these week (and in my career and lived experience as a woman), and I thought it an opportune moment to share how action can be harnessed through these engagements.

Surplus of DATA

The case of investing in women has been pleaded many a times, across commercial and social lines. Research and papers are conducted by institutions like the World Bank Africa Region’s Gender Innovation Lab, World Economic Forum’s The Gender Agenda , The UNDP and UN Women’s COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker and the Gender Smart Investing Summit to mention a few. These are data points that assist governments, private sector institutions and individuals channel the appropriate capital in response.

It’s a Global Risk NOT to Invest

"Funding the Female (owned) Economy is not just diversity and inclusion aesthetics, it’s an economic development catalyst to amplify sustainable impact."

A few months ago I wrote an article highlighting the implications of not funding businesses with a gender-lens framework.  A McKinsey Global Institute report highlighted its findings on gender parity, including that $12 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Gender inequality should be considered a crime against humanity, it strips women of the dignity to access a life worth living, especially as presently, they enjoy half the fruits. And, to echo Tara Sabre Collier, Advisor & General Lead at the Shell Foundation: “Gender lens investing is essential. While women represent 50% of the world’s population, they typically earn half of what men earn.  There is a clear rationale for anyone who cares about impact.”  

Capital comes in MANY Forms

“Let the capital follow the research.” - Stephanie Vak-Stephens 

I joined Stephanie on a panel this week, and these succinct words of hers will always stick with me, if I could print it on a T-shirt I would. And these 6 words are my call to action as you wrap up reading this article, to action the structural and interpersonal bias that impedes the $12 trillion added value to global economy. It is to sponsor, mentor, inject in women’s social capital and write the checks that fund their businesses, it is great for the triple bottom line as it is for personal ego.


Encouraged by the numbers in this article, but don’t know where to get started? This list is filled with venture capital firms, competitions and various institutions that are contributing to providing financial and social and to women and their gender-lens businesses. It starts with checking your bias, doing your research and actioning against it, and through your single action, a community is impacted.



The 5x5x5 Course: Corporate-Startup Fit is officially launching in less than 4 weeks, and if you’re part of the hundreds of  innovation and impact practitioners from Switzerland to South Africa and Singapore, then we have a (several) date from the 15th of March as we start the week of the 5x5x5 course. If you’d like to be a part of this course, then keep reading.

In 2020, I pioneered what has been one of my valuable and favourite ways to engage in learning and development, and that is through the 5x5x5 Course. The model is simple, 5x5x5 stands for 5 days (duration of course), 5 resources (each day) and 5 minutes (how long it takes you consume each day of content). Over 400 students signed up!

I kickstarted this course as a means of adding value to the newsletter community beyond monthly updates on Impact Innovation, Inclusive Business Practice and African Startups. This was an opportunity to respond to the requests on teaching and consulting what the newsletter covered, productising my speaking engagements and key areas of expertise in corporate innovation and impact acceleration.

The 5x5x5 Course: Corporate-Startup Fit will unpack modelling value-based partnerships between corporates and startups with 5 resources each day to help guide your path to partnership. This course is perfect for you if:

  • ·         You are exploring corporate partnerships for your startup or SME
  • ·         You are a corporate innovator who is building relationship with the startup community
  • ·         You want to build meaningful and impactful relationships beyond vanity metrics and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs)
  • ·         You have reached the bottleneck of your discussions with a prospective corporate partner
  • ·         You are ready to design a corporate-startup fit partnership that is centered at building a successful path to partnership


Sounds like something that should have your email address on it?

This course is exclusively for newsletter subscribers, and it is absolutely FREE! If you would like to sign up, all you have to do is CLICK HERE by subscribing to the monthly newsletter, and you’re in!








 I can’t believe this is happening to me! Zuri panicked as she shook her head and stared at her account balance. It was the middle of the month and she had a little over eighty thousand (Naira) left in her bank. To be fair, this would seem like a lot to some, but her expenses told a different story. This balance would barely make a dent in the bills she had piled up, and she wasn’t expecting any new funds ‘til the end of the month. Even then, she wouldn’t be able to cover the bills that has just arrived.”

In the very first chapter of The Smart Money Woman, this is how we are introduced to Zuri Goubadia, the protagonist of The Smart Money Book series, who finds herself in a position most women (African to millennial) know all too well, living from paycheck to paycheck with a middle-class lifestyle. Set in the hustle and bustle of Lagos, Nigeria, the book follows Zuri as she tackles debt, building her wealth, her career and relationships. She is joined on this journey by her friends Tami, Ladun, Adesuwa and Lara whose different circumstances and relationship with money adds to the texture of the multi-dimensional representation and complexity of the black woman (across the Diaspora and continent) in dealing with life’s many money ups and downs.

The author, Arese Ugwu is a high-powered entrepreneur in wealth management, executive producer and the voice behind The Smart Money Tribe podcast. She credits much of her success the many years in corporate Nigeria, being educated across Africa, Europe and Asia, and her own financial freedom journey.

I met Arese in 2019 at one of the events for the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, and since then I've consumed and engaged with her products (from the books to the interviews) as she communicates financial management with a rich finesses.

Throughout the book series, Arese employs a principle of communicating financial wellness and wealth creation effortlessly through the circumstances of Zuri and her tribe, coupled with  Smart Money Lessons and exercises that are practical enough even for the non-financial reader who is flirting with the idea of investing and financial freedom.

In the first book, The Smart Money Woman, where we first meet Zuri who finds herself in an insurmountable amount of debt, we are ushered into her state of wellbeing as she navigates her fears and beliefs about money that have led her to only a few thousand Nairas. Through the lived experiences of her shared relationships, the book does justice to unloading concepts like financial abuse, intrapreneurship, emergency funds, the power of networking and understanding the roots of your money language.

The evolution of Zuri, Tami, Ladun, Adesuwa and Lara’s relationship unfolds in The Smart Money Tribe, as Arese provides the readers with the Guide to Making Bank through the main theme of the book of group economics. From setting financial boundaries with family, to the transition of a lifestyle adjustment and raising capital for your business to setting a framework for group savings and investment consortiums, the second book of the series expands the concept of what a Smart Money Woman is and how her network influences her networth.


“Intrapreneurship is the implementation of start-up practices in large corporations to produce valued innovation. Those kinds of workers are value-driven, adopt critical thinking methodologies and use innovation to solve problems within the business.” – Smart Money Lesson, Intrapreneurship: Chapter 4, The Smart Money Tribe


How do all of these converge to bring you best-selling books that have impacted women across the continent to invest and build their wealth, and fall in love with these five fictional characters who have now been turned into a TV series? You’ll have to read the many chapters to find out.

Conversations about money for me have always been anxiety inducing, unless it was about spending it. As I’m going through my own Zuri (with a bit of Lara and Tami) financial journey of wealth creation through Vuyolwethu as a Service and InnovTel, all while in a wahala of a global pandemic, going into the new year with these two books that I re-read from December January to 2021 was the exact guide and affirmation that I needed.

The Smart Money Woman and The Smart Money Tribe are the books you need if you are ready to start making the necessary steps to understand the financial situation of your life, and take responsibility of the relationship that you have with money, as well the language and mindset that you carry about money into your relationships across the many facets of your life. And, with the Yoruba and pidgin spoken in the books, I’m positive that my next trip to Nigeria will be filled with more jollof and spicy rice, and a better understanding of the language



Over the past 18 months, the concept of impact and innovation has been heavily on my mind, business and personal development. From designing impact, to evaluating and unpacking it through learning and development gamification. In the journey to answer these questions (with the background in corporate innovation and impact acceleration), I established InnovTel and have been relentlessly enquiring and reiterating since the establishment of the firm, working and partnering with institutions from Europe to Africa to do so.

What has been the result?

The answer has been consistent across verticals with the practice of three core principles in impact innovation, and that is built in the wire of understanding, designing and monitoring and evaluating the impact of your business. A few of these answers are also detailed in the seven free resources (mentioned below) which you can have access when you subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

Let’s unpack these principles:

Impact is the result of what value has been created from the immediate consumption of a product.

Understand it

In late 2020, I was invited by Lufthansa Group’s Inaugural Impact Week for South Africa engaging in impact design and business innovation. Impact Week is a global design thinking challenge that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship and has been held in Nepal, Nigeria, and Colombia to mention a few.

At the heart of the keynote was designing impact, and how inclusion should inform the kind of innovation that has potential to be impactful and intelligent. I broke this down to what I  identified as the 3 I’s of how to actualise (“Inclusion Informs Intelligent, Impactful Innovation”) and model impact into the process of engineering a solution as per the design thinking challenge.

Design thinking refers to the cognitive, strategic, and practical processes by design making this composition of this definition inclusive, that makes it inclusive. Marking the foundation of design thinking in creating a solution is inclusive, how can one enhance the model with intelligence and impact to truly capacitate its potential?

Getting started with the Impact Resource Playbook is a good starting point.

Design it

Understanding what impact is and means for your business the first step, and one in the right direction to fully actualise the evolution of the company (and product) value. Once you have the data and harnessed the intelligence, a framework must exist of how this impact will be delivered – a strategy if you will, that will aid and abet the execution. Tools like the Impact Delivery Framework resource that I’ve curated come in handy, whether you have established a company or are in the early stages of your business. What does this resource achieve? It is a 3 page document with a guide of questions to help you consult how your business has been delivering its impact, how it can enhance the experience and process for stakeholders, and whether the process is an opportunity for a model upgrade.

Monitor and Evaluate it

“Investors were looking for some kind of objectivity about the question ‘What is impact?’ And the SDGs do give a roadmap. Bridges uses the SDGs to source business opportunities, and CDC is incorporating them into the development impact thesis of every new investment. The SDGs have galvanized a tremendous amount and a growing amount of private sector capital,” -  Michele Giddens, co-CEO at Bridges Fund Management, and a non-executive director on the board of CDC Group.

To echo Michele’s outline of what impact can be used for, from sourcing business opportunities to employing investment, the framework that you develop can achieve a great outcome that contribute to the firm’s triple bottom line . How you monitor, evaluate and report your impact strategy makes difference, one that can access you to funding opportunities or weaponise the board to distrust your implementation.

This e-book covers a soft introduction to M&E covering strategy, modelling, stakeholders and reporting. Get yours here!



The impact of your business far outlives the output that you produce, it’s the tree that you should have planted 20 years ago. I’m one who finds thrill in the use of alliteration, and for the sake of the topic, I’d say ‘Invest In Impact Innovation” for your business.

Is this where the impact innovation process ends?

No, it is only the beginning. Investing in this evolving process spans the risk investment framework of your business and informs its trajectory inclusive of financial returns. Innovation is a continuous process dedicated to optimization, it is about finding and leaving something better than you found it, and as the vision of the company and technology of the products becomes optimised with AI and annual upgrades, why can’t the same effort be employed to the value that your stakeholders get from consuming your product?





As I’m writing this, I’ve a bottle of Prosecco Doc Luxury opened and multitasking as a writer and an impassioned drinker of Italian sparkling wine with my flute champagne glass. And due to COVID-19 (well, to some extent), I’m at home in my bed going through how I’ve documented 2020 across my social media platforms and my somewhat illegible printed journal. It’s been a year that has qualified in many books as forgettable and unforgettable, and in its wholesome character has been one that has summoned courage and resilience.

This year started with the embrace of calling me out of familiar environments, and into new territories that knew my capabilities and added capacity along the way. When I left the firm that I was with in late February, I was sure of a few things which included a moderator engagement in Kigali, Rwanda as well as a deserved vacation to a few emirates in the United Arab of Emirates – the trajectory of my career and life was from this point onwards was what I could not have mapped out happening in a space of a few months.

After taking about three months to wallow in the reality that showcased itself through the violence of a pandemic, these months were filled with the relentless job applications acceptances and rejections (that returned with over or under qualified response, or non-culture fit), refining the messaging and positioning of my personal brand, upskilling and consulting businesses and startups in business innovation and strategy. Garnering the momentum in these months, through the work of consulting and continuous effort in Vuyolwethu As A Service was an opportunity to work in the wait, as well as prepare for what the months of stupendous grace that August and the months that followed would present.

It’s often joked about that in 2020, you should at least come out with one skill and I suppose I took that joke a little too seriously. I’ve always been one to outsource the work of skills that I don’t have, which includes the building of this particular website, but through Innovtel, I had a bit too much time on my hands and tons of insomnia to challenge myself to build a website. Through this engagement came an opportunity to work with Lufthansa by being a keynote speaker at their inaugural Impact Week for South Africa and produce a guide of the talk available exclusively to my newsletter community; and a few weeks later, InnovTel (Pty) Ltd was born. Innovtel is an impact design studio that facilitates impact innovation and shared value through Marketing and MIL (monitoring, impact and learning and development). To date, we’ve worked with companies like the University of Cape Town and the Mastercard Foundation, and ShEquity and Bright Insights Global to mention a few, spanning our work across three continents and operating as a five figure business. I stubbornly had to let go of the idea of becoming an entrepreneur by 30, and honour the space in which I was and am being placed in at present.

The experience of shedding through loss of family and friendships, habitual lifestyles and an old self, commanded the fierce submission of the a new way of doing and being. Personally, one of the ways in which I did was through sitting and being at home instead of on a plane and sleeping in a newly made white sheet-fitted hotel room. It felt as if I had lost a sense of mobility and the perceived value that I had attached to it. At home, I had to buy a desk and set aside a space to operate as if I was in a hotel suite or an office, and it’s become a continued way of operating in awareness.

Words and paragraphs are not enough to encapsulate the year of the pivot that was, and the learnings and losses that it carried with it to benefit or throw us completely off. What new ways of being and doing have you had to adopt and adapt to?





I had a brief chat with Viresh Harduth who is the Vice President of Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East about the vision and mission for Sage for small businesses across the region, and how your business can ready itself for the digital transformation and risk beyond COVID-19


1. Viresh, as Vice President of Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East, what exactly does your role entail and how does it, and Sage support small businesses?

My job is to lead sales and renewals, channel development and customer engagement for our start-up and small business solutions portfolio. In practical terms, that means building awareness of our solutions in the marketplace, working with our business partners to help customers meet their business goals, and providing education and information to the market.

Sage’s vision in small business is to help our customers thrive by automating accounting and compliance and by coaching them to success. The way we do this is by reducing administration for our customers, helping customers to comply with tax regulations, and enabling businesses and their accountants to collaborate better.

2. In the established distinction of an SME and a Start-up, do Sage products apply to both? And at what stage should a business consider bringing in the skillset of accountancy and financing in their business, digitized or human capital?

Our goal at Sage is to build relationships with customers for life, so our Sage Business Cloud encompasses offerings for small businesses and start-ups through to sizeable medium businesses. Our solutions, designed for smaller businesses, are tailored to their specific needs, so they can subscribe and get up-and-running at an affordable cost.

Clients can start with a simple solution that makes it easy to invoice customers and track expenses, then move up the ladder to online and accounting solutions with richer functionality for budgeting, forecasting, multi-currency management, inventory tracking, employee self-service, debtors management and more.

Formal businesses – that is, limited companies – will need an accountant to prepare their annual financial statements. They will usually start by outsourcing to an accounting practice. Generally, it is only when the business grows into a larger and more complex operation that they will consider a permanent accountant. We are seeing accountants in practice become real advisors to small business clients, helping them with strategic advice around optimising costs and finding growth opportunities.

3. Before your current role, you were the Director of Optimisation and Operations at Sage International and I’d like to think that you, more than anyone else recognises the importance of embedding business optimization tools to contribute to your business’ success. How does and can Sage do this for small to medium businesses?

Our business solutions help our clients to optimise their business in two ways. Firstly, we streamline and automate many tasks for them, from financial recordkeeping, invoicing to filing tax submissions, saving them hours of human time each month. That time can then be directed to sales, strategy, billable work or other activities that add value. Automating red-tape and paperwork is a significant cost-saver.

Secondly, we understand that making the most of business opportunities must be balanced with managing cash flow and keeping costs under control. Companies need a clear, real-time view of how the business is performing to achieve that goal. Our solutions empower them with the business performance information they need to make good financial choices that translate into higher revenues and profits.

Making an investment in your business’ digital transformation is an investment that takes more than one purchase and optimising one process, it is an evolving strategy that takes time, skills and the right technology.

4. As small businesses are moving from being digitally resistant to the aspirational observers and challengers, and ultimately digital natives, what would be your advice to founders of things to consider as they map out their digital strategy?

Digital technology doesn’t need to be as complex as some small businesses outside the tech industry might imagine. A good place to start is by identifying areas where manual processes are slowing you down, costing you money, restricting your flexibility or hampering your customer experience. From there, you can look for cloud-based solutions that address your pain points through automation. Many of these tools can be trialed for a month or two for free.

To sum up: digital technology is at its most powerful when you’re starting with the goal of solving a business problem. As a small business owner, you might have limited budget and time to rapidly incorporate new technologies and skills into your business, so look for the quick wins. And remember that the cloud can adapt as your business changes and grows, remaining a valuable business tool that evolves with you.

5. Your message to founders as they are coming out of Global Entrepreneurship Month, and into a 2021 that will definitely still require us to do business differently?.

At Sage, we know the pandemic has compounded the effects of the recession,  and that many small businesses are struggling just to pay the rent and keep the lights on. Their grit and resilience are inspiring, as is the role they are playing in maintaining jobs and economic activity throughout this time.  But if you are running a small business, you’ll know that platitudes are not going to be enough.

There are no quick fixes for the damage that the pandemic may have dealt to your cash reserves and your cash flow. Nonetheless, there are also opportunities to get closer to your customers and find new purpose in a crisis. Stay focused on your vision, watch your cashflow, and look out for how customer behaviour is changing. Aiming for small wins makes you flexible, adaptable, and able to make faster decisions.



On Friday, I shared across my social media platforms a few images accompanied with a caption that encapsulated a few wins from my engagements from the week. One of the reasons why I do this, is to highlight what typically goes on in a week in my career, and the kind of work spectrum from what I like to call Vuyolwethu As A Service (we’ll explain this shortly), as well as with my newly founded company, InnovTel comprises of.


It was overwhelmingly received with great positivity encouraging more of these kinds of post, and as a follow up to my question (which came with a resounding yes) on whether I should unpack what happens in my day/week, I thought it fit so share with you how I manoeuvre being remote.


Over the past few months, I’ve become intentionally aware of the kind of work I do, and the challenge and opportunity that this has presented in separating the offerings and services of my business and that from my personal brand. InnovTel provides services in Innovation Strategy and Monitoring and Evaluation, while Vuyolwethu As a Service (VaaS) is strictly focused on Corporate Moderation, Strategy Consulting and Brand Influence. This has been super helpful in accepting conflicting invitations, and even internal conversations of which umbrella the service desired can be delivered under.


So, with all that said, how does a week in my life really look like?
I’ve segmented this outlook into two verticals (VaaS and InnovTel) with three highlights each of a scenario that will hopefully provide you with a lens of how I spend my week.  

Let’s take a look.


Vuyolwethu As A Service (VaaS):


1. Campaign Paused: One of the three ways that I provide a service to clients, is through brand influence with partnerships that are aligned to my verticals of startup advisory, business innovation, gender parity and the lines in between. About a week ago, I was approached by an agency that lead a campaign for a financial services group and once the engagement started, with rates approved on, it was time to send content and get it approved. Unfortunately, a few days earlier before the campaign went live, the client took a decision to put the campaign on pause.

2. Panel Discussion: A client, global technology firm has just launched a partnership with an enterprise technology solution that is seeking to engage on the importance of transformation. Scheduled 5-6 weeks prior, this week was time to shoot and engage on the processes and investments that I have made in InnovTel to insulate and ready it from the COVID-19 pandemic by being a digital business. Using tools like Sage, Payfast and banking with Standard Bank has assisted.

3. Renegotiating a Rate: Everyone wants to get a good price for their service, and beyond that transaction, I focus on the value that can be provided. I recently onboarded a new client who wanted to negotiate my moderating rate, mostly attributed to the fact that they would have to incur costs of taking me out of my home and put me in studio. In keeping with the theme of value creation and exchange, they’ll now also be coming onboard as clients of InnovTel.




1. Competition Preparation: I consulted as a selection committee member from the hundreds of entrants of the student entrepreneurship competition, and this resulted in an invitation to be one of the judges at the invitation of the vice-chancellor of the university. One of the reasons why I love working with universities is the great opportunity to contribute to levelling the playing field in giving all students to exercise the viability of their ideas, as well as an enabling environment and safe culture to cushion failure.

2. Client H2 Expansion Meeting: One of most exciting words that I had heard this week was a client that expressed that they wanted to take our relationship to the next level – and that was to expand our services to them, capacity as well as the region in which they’ll be operating in in 2021. An introductory hour-long conversation that has led to weekly series of mapping and planning the next few years. To say this meeting was the highlight of the week, would be an understatement.

3. Payment, Vendor loading: Business isn’t always sexy, and one of the things that isn’t sexy about business is the payment period and prior to that, the onboarding back and forth of document submission and form refilling. And this week, was filled with a client whom I engaged with doing that for two days (luckily a few minutes in total).


And there you have it, a brief executive summary of what goes on in my week – some highlights, important lowlights and some tactics employed to ensure that value creation is achieved.


How does your week look like, and what services and conversations do you engage in to ensure that you make the most of the value that you trade?

I’d love to hear from you.





 It’s the year that no futurist or economist could have predicted, one inhabited by a virus that would (and still) impact livelihoods, businesses, economies and our way of living. The negative socio-economic rippling effect of COVID-19 has been felt across all vectors, and in a similar light, has inspired entrepreneurial and innovative activity that’s yielded products and partnerships that have impacted and pivoted the world as we know it. On the 14th of October, I announced such a partnership, a SAGE Partnership to benefit small businesses across South Africa.

In the midst of the pandemic, and after weeks of anxiously contemplating whether to take the plunge and spending a week of building a facilitated learning platform, I launched which houses courses, e-books and InnovTel and Teach webinars on impact innovation. Birthed through our first partnership with a global leading aviation company in providing advisory and mentorship on impact innovation, InnovTel (Pty) Ltd  (an impact design studio that facilitates impact innovation and shared value through design, advisory and project management) was registered a company was born.

You’re probably thinking, what a crazy time to launch! Me too, at first. I also thought, what a relevant time to engage on impact and tools that can innovatively impact the way in which we practice and understand impact. A necessary opportunity to map out what impact means for your business, and what tools to use when listening to the potential impact and growth that can be achieved.

Recently, through InnovTel and Teach, which is one of the products of , we engaged with an entrepreneur on how she is building her multi-million venture, and one of the core principles of this impact was finances. She simply said to build your business as though you are building a legacy baby and it was her accountant who gave her this sage advice.

Being a small business owner, I knew that I could waste no time in tracking the finances of my business, and in my relationship with data and intelligence, Excel was my chosen tool of choice for my business, coupled with my relationship with my banker in understanding the trajectory that I wanted to take my business in. However, I knew I needed more to optimise my operations, and my partnership with SAGE could not have been more timeous, especially since I didn’t have an accountant on my business speed dial.

SAGE, a multinational enterprise software company, and I, will be engaging in #SAGEAdvice harnessing insights and expertise, and sharing how #SageForSmallBiz tools and capabilities for SMEs can optimize business operations through digitization. Over the next few months, we’ll be unpacking what this exactly means, and how things like automated processes, getting the right tools for your business finances, choosing the right business program partners, what impact is and how getting these process right and much more can contribute to the growth and success of your business.

For now, here’s a little gift from SAGE, an e-book guide with 10 tips to transform your productivity and how changing something as simple and important as your accounting admin can have a huge impact on your business.



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Vuyolwethu Dubese is a multiple award-nominated professional in impact and inclusive development, and innovation strategy. Over the past five years, she's served as a Startup Partnerships Lead for Africa for global intelligence firm, Thomson Reuters and as an Impact Acceleration Associate at investment and advisory firm, Impact Amplifier and served on boards. During this period, she has also worked with organisations like Foundervine, World Bank Group, Standard Bank, UCT Graduate School of Business, UNDP Africa and Accenture, Seedstars World, Redbull and Global Startup Awards to mention a few through her expertise. As a moderator, she's graced the stage at multiple high-level engagements in and outside of South Africa including the USAID Global Entrepreneurship Week, and the Timeless Women's Conference and Gala Dinner in Rwanda to mention a few.


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