Education is the key agenda to ending gender inequality, is the word issuing from those in the lead: the global disruptors, champions, influencers, innovators. But education does not stand alone – it needs the support of mentorship and financial backing to be fully effective. And then there are the not so subtle nuances of people’s beliefs and attitudes in respect of difference that need to shift. Here, we showcase three programmes that are laying the foundation for gender equality in South Africa’s entrepreneurial space.



Lisa Illingworth, Co-Founder, Futureproof SA

By combining a background in education and entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial educationalist, qualified teacher, speaker, radio presenter, mother of two and all-round go-getter, Lisa Illingworth co-founded Futureproof to educate youths from as young as eight years old the true art of entrepreneurship.



As a divorced mom with two children, Lisa started her first business to combine much-needed flexibility with an income stream to pay school fees. With many pitfalls and failures along the way, Lisa realised that a lot of her failings could have been avoided. “I had never learned to manage myself and all the intricacies that come with being an entrepreneur,” she explains.

Lisa recognised a serious need for educating children on the practical application and art of entrepreneurship to create a generation of informed, thriving youths. The South African labour market remains vulnerable, particularly in the youth employment sector. “While there is a call for more entrepreneurs, the youth of today lack the skills, knowledge and opportunities to answer to the call.”

Lisa continues, saying: “I combined my passion for transformative education with the pain of these lessons and formed Futureproof to, firstly, change that pathway for my children and those growing up in this economic climate, to give children an opportunity to create their own futures, and to make a large indent in the youth unemployment rate.”

Lisa believes that entrepreneurs possess qualities that each of us can aspire to: they identify a problem or a gap and create a service or a product to solve this problem and generate a flow of money. “Their tenacity is something that few can relate to. Entrepreneurs sacrifice short-term gain to deliver a long-term solution and derive an income from their efforts and passion. Nothing comes easy to an entrepreneur, so persistence is key,” she emphasises.

In a country where many simply admit defeat, Lisa and her team believes that possessing an entrepreneurial mindset can set our youths apart and accelerate them in the working world.

Today, Futureproof is a “for purpose, for profit” business. “We sacrifice neither. This business is built on a model that was based on authentically practicing what we teach. Many social enterprises default to a charity, and this business is unapologetically not a charity. We teach children to build sustainable enterprises and we mirror this through the way we do business,” says Lisa. The business has seen many lives changed and recently a team of boys from Parkfields Primary School, aged 11, refurbished bicycle parts after doing the lesson on planning and in one week made R265. Their teacher commented that she had seen some children who hardly ever engage academically, come alive when they were exposed to the course and the people teaching it.

Futureproof is made up of a national team of 30 people, and counting – ranging from full-time staff to entrepreneurs who form part of the coaching team.

The business exists with a massive transformative purpose to educate the future generation of entrepreneurs. “We aim to identify and grow the 5% of high-impact entrepreneurs who will create the much-needed economic transformation that this country requires, but organically, the process allows for children to learn how to create their own income opportunities. We aim to equip children with the mindset, knowledge and skills to be ‘future proof’, ” Lisa concludes.

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