About us

We’re a social franchise that
aims to expand universal access to quality
early learning in South Africa, for children aged 3-4 years old.

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

In our first three years (phase one), 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.

We’re entering a new phase, where we’re scaling up. While our growth in phase one was rapid, phase two will see a step change. In our fourth year (2018/19), we will reach 80 710 children with a network of 6 688 SmartStarters. This exciting next stage will require us to support our existing franchisors to recruit more franchisees, as well as to bring new franchisors into the SmartStart family. We continue to develop new funding relationships and, above all, find effective ways of partnering with government at the national and local levels.

We are a network

We are building a network of strategic and diverse partners and organisations who collaborate with us to fulfil our shared dream of creating access to affordable quality early learning.

We are creating an early learning social movement where together with our network, including parents and caregivers, we’re creating access for three and four-year old’s across South Africa have the best start in life. Among our objectives, is changing the traditional meaning of poor being associated with poor quality by creating national access to affordable quality early learning in South African communities. When we work together, the possibilities are endless.

We are growing this social movement in different communities to prioritise and create early learning opportunities while creating access to children currently without it. We want to ensure universal access to affordable quality early learning is a reality in our lifetime.

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

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.
Nomxolisi Malope-Rwodzi Franchise Network Lead
Building and shaking the early learning movement across the country and making sure nobody is left behind as we create a better tomorrow.

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

Funie Rabambi Public Relations Specialist

Passionate about telling stories and improving the lives of people in underserved communities. Excels in both proactive campaign-driven media relations and responsive communications

Lindokuhle Magasela Digital Marketing Officer

Speaks fluent social media and always coming up with amazing ideas to keep it exciting. Walks around with her inner child next to her.

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.

Samukelisiwe Buthelezi Operations Go – To

Plays musical desks to support every role in the office, and always wearing the highest heels to make every step count.

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.

Kamogelo Phaswana 
Data Capture

Keeping record of every bit of information to make sure we are shaping the futures of the next generation, one child at a time.

Mpho Raphalalani

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.

Annele Mthembu 

You haven’t tasted real coffee until you’ve tasted my coffee, I’m the big smile waiting to welcome you to our early learning nest of adventure.

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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