GRACE MATLHAPE REFLECTS ON A SUCCESSFUL JOURNEY TAKEN BY SMARTSTART IN 2018,
writes Khathutshelo Nedombeloni.

GROWING SUCCESSES
This year SmartStart increased the number of franchisees from 2,000 to more than 3,800, recruited four more franchisors after a thorough process, and was also able to conduct an assessment of the programme success in preparing children better for school. “Our main aim is to grow the network of children. Every time we win over a SmartStarter, and that SmartStarter takes on children and registers them on the system, it is a big success,’’ says Grace with a smile.

CHALLENGES
Grace admits it wasn’t always smooth sailing as there were a few challenges along the way. “It is really the overall challenge of growing an organisation from scratch. Everything you have to test and fail a few times before you find the path you must follow.” One of those challenges is registering SmartStarters and getting them to be funded.

DEDICATED TEAM
The success of the organisation can be credited to dedicated staff members and the SmartStart network including franchisors, club coaches, funders, trainers and SmartStarters.

GLOBAL FORCE
The proudly South African Grace says she would like to see SmartStart become a powerful force in early learning. “We want SmartStart to grow and have an effect in South Africa, particularly the number of children who are better prepared for school,” she said. Grace added that, “In a few years when we track
those children we should see what they have gained in material terms and show that this was a real foundation.”

A SUCCESSFUL BRAND
SmartStart has also officially launched a big communication campaign starting with billboards. Other channels will follow soon. “It is such a big deal because it is put together in a way that allows us to support the SmartStarters to market their services,’’ she explains. Grace says, “the reason the brand was launched only now was that we wanted it to be related to something. We wanted to create an association first and then introduce the brand”.

RECHARGE
As the year comes to an end, it is time for everyone to reflect. “We have earned a time to pause, to reflect on where we are headed and what the future might hold,” says Grace. “Also, what do we want to do to help that future along, in order to add on to our success as a group.”

MORE ABOUT GRACE
The married mother of two girls and a boy says she will be spending the festive season with those she loves. “I always spend my festive season hosting family and having a good time with sisters, nieces, nephews, and sisters-inlaw,” she added. She also enjoys spending her “me” time reading.

Grace has been in the social justice sector all her life. When she went to university her chosen field of study was human rights law but ended up in a social work class.