WATCH: How AVBOB is helping social entrepreneurs thrive

Published Aug 16, 2022


Social entrepreneurs are changing the fabric of our society; delivering business services designed to solve social problems in ways that simultaneously deliver reasonable profits and positive community impact.

Supporting and enabling social entrepreneurs

Shape Café is a social enterprise that operates in Sebokeng township and is owned by Itumeleng Hlapane and his wife. Here, coffee and juice are served alongside marketing, accounting and legal advice in a shared workspace environment that provides a nurturing base for business development in the community.

When South Africa was faced with devastating looting in July last year, Shape Café was sadly another victim.

Enter AVBOB, one of Africa’s largest mutual assurance societies.

Being a community-minded organisation at its roots, the company decided to step in and help small businesses affected by this looting. Shape Café was one of these fortunate beneficiaries - and together with the help of a little love and support from the community it serves, it was back in operation in no time at all.

As a committed corporate citizen, AVBOB takes its role in society seriously - and addressing gender-based violence is another cause close to its heart and purpose. The TEARS Foundation was started by Mara Glennie, who was determined to transition from being a survivor to becoming a support service for women in need.

With her Help-At-Your-Fingertips support line, sponsored by AVBOB, more than 99 000 victims of gender-based violence have been assisted to date - and her relationship with AVBOB as an aligned corporate partner, is enabling her to live her life in a purposeful and fulfilling way.

SAINC visited these inspiring stakeholders to see first-hand what they have achieved, despite the adversity in their paths, and with a little helping hand from AVBOB.


Itumeleng Hlapane is a social entrepreneur and the CEO of Shape Café in Sebokeng township. It provides a space for township entrepreneurs to work, interact and obtain a variety of support services for their businesses, often at no cost.

With this facility being so community-centric, it came as a great shock to Hlapane to learn that his café had been part of the devastating 2021 looting.

AVBOB understood the knock-on of this looting, especially for small social enterprises, and stepped in with an offer to help Shape Café back to its feet with the purchase of new equipment. With that in place, Hlapane’s faith in serving his community was restored when they flocked back to donate more than they could afford to enable him to purchase the stock he needed to recommence trading.

Mara Glennie is a brave and inspiring survivor of gender-based violence. Finding herself in this victimised position, she decided to rise above and take control. What stood out to her was the lack of support structures for women in her position.

Once she had sufficiently recovered, she took it upon herself to do something about tackling this problem and established the TEARS Foundation to give women the support that she was unable to find. From the launch, and with funding and support from AVBOB, she set out to develop the Help-At-Your-Fingertips app. Designed to be used on any device, the app provides a database of more than 3 000 free-service health facilities across the country that can assist with rape, abuse and gender-based violence - changing the landscape of support for women most in need.

Carl van der Riet is the CEO of AVBOB. He takes to heart the key value of people and their need for comfort and empathy during stressful times of bereavement with which AVBOB is continuously engaged.

This support extends to supporting the communities AVOBO serve. Through initiatives like the TEARS Foundation’s Help-At-Your-Fingertips app, and by assisting social entrepreneurs in township environments to overcome adversity and thrive, Van der Riet realises the privileged position he has to help at scale through the caring initiatives of the AVBOB brand. Integrating this purposeful ethos into his personal life as well, he is committed to helping the psyche of the nation to heal, and is gratified by the opportunity to be involved.