By Elton Plaatjes
VENTURES AFRICA – Ezlyn is a dynamic young social entrepreneur, heading the DAD Fund in South Africa. Even though she is young, Ezlyn has a strong determination to make a change in South Africa. Ezlyn currently drives the DAD Fund with her leadership ability and pragmatic approach to helping investors who seek the opportunity to make a change among the youth.
Social Entrepreneurship has become a ‘buzz’ word in and around South Africa. So we thought of turning the spotlight on a nurturing social enterprise, doing some great work in South Africa, mostly changing young lives!
Let’s find out more about the DAD Fund!
EP: Ezlyn, thank you for taking time out of your schedule….. So what is the DAD Fund and what problem do you wish to solve?
Ezlyn: The Dad Fund is an nonprofit organisation that was started in honour of a phenomenal man and teacher, Daniel Aurthur Douman (D.A.D) who mentored and touched the lives of many high school and varisty students while serving within the education system and his personal character attributes are those, that the fund would like to promote in the youth today.
Through our organisation, we aim to promote the holistic development of future leaders through the head (education, bursaries, scholarships), the hand (work experience/internships and entrepreneurship) and the heart (personal development and social give back initiatives).
We believe that everyone can make a success of their lives, with the right guidance, support and hard work. We believe in the power of education (in all forms) and how it can really unleash potential in the youth.
EP: So, just how did the idea of the DAD Fund come about?
Ezlyn: The Dad Fund was founded by my father Lyndon Barends, who was a close friend and previous student of Mr. Douman’s. When Mr. Douman passed away in 1999, Lyndon started thinking about starting an organisation to honour this great man and the role he played in the lives of the students around him. The Dad Fund started informally in 2003 and at that stage, it was simply a fund to financially support students and teachers wishing to study further. The Dad Fund was then formally registered in 2009 and has since evolved into a social enterprise aimed at driving education and empowerment for young people (mainly aged between 16 ans 35).
EP: Tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
Ezlyn: I am 27 year old female. Born in Cape Town, residing in Johannesburg. My mission in life, is to touch and positively influence the lives of as many young people as possible, so that they live out their biggest dreams, just as I am living mine. I find it so fascinating how one has the ability to help shape and change someone’s life for the better just by having a conversation, or giving them of your time. Over and above that, I am fun and easy going (which has given me my nickname – Eazy E), I love travelling the world and meeting all kinds of people, I love the nature and the outdoors and I am pretty passionate about business as well. I plan to start my MBA in January next year.
I am a very social person and enjoy going out to shows, dinners, tours and so forth
I grew up in so many different environments, so generally I adapt easiy and can relate to people from all walks of life. My childhood was spent in Cape Town. I moved to Johannesburg when I was 13, but since then have been living between the two cities. I like getting the best of both worldsJ
I have a BBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship and a Higher Diploma in Marketing Communications. I started out my career in Marketing until I found my true calling in life in April 2011.
EP: Given that you are a social entrepreneur, how does this serve to drive the organisation?
Ezlyn: A social entrepreneur finds a business solution to a social problem. In our case, the problem is education, or a lack thereof. Given my passion and background in business, I aim to use this knowledge to develop and grow the Dad Fund to a fully-fledged sustainable social enterprise so that we can leave a lasting legacy for generations to come. My vision for the Dad Fund is big! I’d like to see us doing work across Africa and the world. Previously, we’ve had international programs. I aim to build on this so that the Dad Fund has an international presence.
EP: Looking back, do you have any challenge you feel are worth mentioning, especially when starting out?
Ezlyn: Yes I’ve had and still have many challenges. My major challenge is to secure enough funding to implement our programs continously with financial ease.
This entrepreneurial journey has been an interesting one but everything has pushed me to do things that I never thought I was capable of doing. I am developing a confidence, tenacity and unshakable faith in myself. This journey has also been a spiritual journey for me as I depend daily on my God to equip me with the necessary skills and attributes to do what I have to. Entrepreneurship…….social entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted.
EP: What distinct challenges do you foresee in the future that makes the DAD Fund even more relevant?
Ezlyn: There are many evils in the world – young men raping women, young people growing up with no self belief and confidence, a lack of literacy and numeracy skills, the list is endless. I believe that it all starts with education. The more you know, the less any body will be able to mess around with you. Also, if more young people are exposed to people and programs that guide them to become better people and live honourable lives, crimes will also decrease. With good education, young people will be driven to get good careers or start businesses which ultimately contributes to an economically thriving country. When we improve the economic conditions around us, we automatically improve the social conditions around us (decreased poverty, decreased drug usage and crime, improved education, improved health conditions).
EP: What do you think are the important factors that make the DAD Fund a success?
Ezlyn: At the Dad Fund, we develop personal relationships with each of the young people who comes through any of our programs. We also encourage the people whom we have helped, to give back and help the next group of people coming through our programs. Dad Fund has a very strong sense of community so we always have people that we can count on to assist. We are also a passionate and excited organisation, so we get young people excited about making something of their lives. Everyone working with the Dad Fund is fun, positive and passionate about the advancement of youth. All of this is deeply rooted in our company culture and will always be one of the greatest factors that will contribute to our success. To sponsors and partners – they see that we are authentic and passionate about what we do so we generraly have good support.
EP: Any golden words of advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs?
– Be strong and courageous, no matter what!
– Rememeber that at the end of the day, CEO’s, MD’s and General Managers of companies, are just ordinary people, like you and me so don’t let them intimidate you. Be bold!
– Do something every day, that you are afraid to do, or thought you’d never be able to do
EP: Ezlyn, thank you for your valuable time and interesting reflection on the DAD Fund and the work you do!