By on August 7, 2013

With a background in Industrial Psychology, Social Entrepreneurship and the Sciences, Annie McWalter joined The Hope Factory to continue to give back. 

  • My best choices… (what I’m most proud of)

Professionally I am most proud of my career journey as it has always been in line with a calling to make a positive difference in the lives of others and to assist other human beings. I am very happy to be heading up a social entrepreneurial organisation called The Hope Factory, which seeks to empower South Africans to become financially sustainable. I have a wonderful team who work with me who make me extremely proud to lead such an amazing organisation. I am also glad that I have constantly invested in my own personal development as well as the development of others, and I continue to do so.

• My worst choices…. (what I learned from) 

I can’t say that there is anything that I regret in my life or career. I believe in John Maxwell’s principle of ‘failing forward’. So, even when there has been a career choice or business that was not the best fit for me, there were very valuable lessons that I learnt about myself and others. Those times helped to clarify the vision I now have for entrepreneurial and skills development. I think it is very healthy for people to fail or make bad choices once in a while (it is the nature of being human) in order to keep you open to new perspectives in life and remain humble.

Introducing The Hope Factory: a Company Vitae  

The Hope Factory began in 2001 with one young woman’s desire to assist 10 previously disadvantaged women to learn how to sew and through their new-found skill, to learn how to earn and provide for their families. Liz Zambonini, the founder, pioneered a dream that has grown into an organisation that is more than just about training people in skills; it is about giving people hope. More than 12 years later, the emphasis is still on the development of the person themselves – their desires, their aspirations and their dreams and how to have confidence to make a living through their own effort.

Since then we have had well over 1000 people come through various programmes designed to create financial sustainability. We now focus on skills programmes and entrepreneurial development programmes aimed at fostering and walking the journey with black entrepreneurs. In 2012, we assisted 48 entrepreneurs to register their businesses, and mentored 100 entrepreneurs. We saw 95% of these businesses start to put accurate financial record keeping systems in place and adhere to a budget for the first time. We also helped 86% of these businesses to formulate a clear business strategy. As a result, more than half of these businesses increased their annual turnover significantly and more than a third of them saw their profits rise. We are expecting even better results in the following years as they continue to build on stronger business foundations.

In 2013 we will be mentoring a total of 194 black entrepreneurs made possible through Enterprise Development (ED) funding from numerous South African Companies. At the beginning of this year we launched a Johannesburg Entrepreneur Support Programme which will focus on 45 entrepreneurs within the greater Johannesburg region.  The other Socio-Economic Development funded skills-development programmes and Entrepreneur Support programmes are based on Port Elizabeth, where the need to create opportunities for income generation is substantial and where The Hope Factory has been operating since 2003.

In an ideal world, we see The Hope Factory being part of the solution to eradicating the highly racially skewed income-inequality gap that exists in our country. We would also like to see more of our young people having access to viable income generating opportunities. We would like to see the majority of South Africans having access to much better opportunities to further their careers in order develop to their fullest potential as human beings.

The Hope Factory is an established Enterprise Development organisation associated with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). We mentor and train potential black entrepreneurs to develop life and business skills in order to create new businesses (Socio Economic Development) and equip black entrepreneurs with skills to grow their existing businesses (Enterprise Development). All the programmes are underpinned by comprehensive and holistic one-on-one mentorship.  Over the past 12 years more than 1000 people successfully completed the various programmes offered by The Hope Factory.  Our programmes are supported through investments from numerous companies within South Africa.

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