About us

We are an early learning social franchise, with a network of trained and licensed practitioners (SmartStarters) who implement the same evidence-based programme.

Recognising the importance of the first six years in a child’s life and the huge gaps in provision, we provide a pragmatic, affordable solution to rapidly expand access to quality early learning. Our franchised programme is delivered through playgroups, day mothers and Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres to improve children’s readiness for learning, school performance and overall life success.

SmartStart was established in May 2015 to create universal access to early learning for three and four-year old’s. Since then, we’ve been providing an effective and affordable solution that enables unemployed women and men to run their own SmartStart programmes, and that empowers parents and communities to seek out and support this quality programme.

Our purpose

SmartStart’s vision is to give every child the power to succeed. This means ensuring that all South Africa’s children can benefit from early learning opportunities. To help this vision become reality, by 2025 we aim to reach one million three and four year-olds each year through the SmartStart programme.

Our model

SmartStart was established in 2015 with the aim of rapidly expanding access to quality, affordable early learning opportunities for young children in South Africa.

We help SmartStarters to set up twice-weekly playgroups for up to 12 children. We also support new and existing childminders and work with ECD centres. Whatever the setting, SmartStarters implement the same carefully structured programme that is designed to boost learning through play, talk and stories. Our social franchise model increases the likelihood of quality and impact by using standardised systems, materials and monitoring. It also enables scale, reaching many more children than would otherwise be possible and creating thousands of new jobs.

Our progress

In our first three years , we successfully developed and established our model and brand, reaching thousands of three and four-year-olds across South Africa. We have tested our programme on the ground, built strong partnerships and refined the systems that support delivery at each level of the franchise. We have also put in place a skilled and dedicated team to lead and manage the organisation.

Our growth to date has been rapid, but the next phase will see a step change. By the end of 2022 our goal is to be reaching 350,000 children each year.

Our network

We are building a network of strategic partners and organisations who share our vision. Our early learning social movement includes parents and caregivers, community leaders, ECD service providers and government. We believe that when we work together, the possibilities are endless.

Our franchisors

We collaborate with leading organisations, who not only share our dream of creating universal access to quality early learning, but also promote our unique model and make our dream a reality. 

Meet the team

The SmartStart Hub is a made up of a close-knit team of people who keep the SmartStart machine well-oiled and running optimally. Have a look at our hive members and what they do at the hub. Click on our smiles to get to know us better.

Grace Matlhape
CEO

Leading a team that’s changing the country one child at a time and staying ahead by putting our best foot forward, always.

Justine Jowell Programme Design Lead

Totally passionate about helping to create amazing space for children to learn and be seen for their uniqueness – and starting this as early as possible!

Nomsa Muthaphuli Operations Manager
Calibrating all our resources to make sure our early learning philosophy reaches every community in need. Changing the world, all in a days’ work.

Aneshree Rambally
Brand & Communications Lead

Passionate and proudly South African, an orchestrator of brand magic and a wanderlust introducing early learning to a home near you

Nthabi Mofokeng Club Network Activator

Always on the road activating clubs and waving the SmartStart flag high in every community that we implement it, good vibes always!

Mameetse Sebesho Training Manager

Ensuring all our SmartStarters are adequately trained because if we sharpen the mind enough, we can harness the future today.

Simone Carter Financial Manager
Meticulously counting the beans to ensure that as many kids as possible get a touch of SmartStart’s magic throughout the country.

Obakeng Sebina
Relationship Manager

Fishing for partnerships that accelerate early learning during the week and fishing for supper on weekends, I always have a catch.

Margaret Matebesi
Operations Assistant

Efficiency is my everyday prerogative as I make sure everything goes where it needs to be, I also hold the title for the warmest smile in the hub.

 

Xhanti Khembe
IT Manager

Coding our way to the forefront of early learning across the country and switching on a few devices. Hello World!

Ndumiso Mahlalela Franchise Coordinator

Coordinating the SmartStart Ecosystem’s movements to make sure all our stakeholders are always in the loop. Multi-tasking extraordinaire.

Zanele Ngwenya Master Trainer

Training trainers in South African communities is what I do, and just like Olaf from Frozen, I believe children’s futures are worth melting for.

Mabuti Mangesii
Financial Accountant

Creating effective financial systems for the benefit of tomorrow’s future leaders, and looking very cool as I solve for x.

Thabitha Dolamo 
Office Manager

Linah Ramathesele  
Data Capture

Capturing every moment of our SmartStart Journey by documenting all the data at our disposal. Conquering barriers through early learning.

Mpho Raphalalani
Trainer

Planting seeds for the growing children by training their facilitators. The bigger the investment today, the greater the reward tomorrow

 

Kgomotso Mangolela  
Hub Coach

Coaches coaches, connects dots, and triple checks that quality is never compromised as I support every coach in the network.

Johannes Ranoko
Junior M&E Officer

Tracking our journey to a million children by 2025 while evaluating and analyzing our reports to constantly improve our systems.

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