Welcome to our Innovators Creating Prosperity series, spotlighting organizations across the globe that are positively impacting economic development.
In 2017, the World Bank estimated that African economies would need to create 450 million new jobs by 2035 in order to provide work for the continent’s swelling working-age population. However, if they continue on their current course, Africa’s economies will only create 100 million jobs by that time, creating a massive employment gap that business and government leaders will need to close. That’s where companies like Mintor come into the picture.
For many South African workers, applying for jobs can be expensive, complex, and time-consuming. Many come from marginalized or rural communities, lack regular access to computers or sufficient browsing data needed for applications, lack skills or proof of their potential, and have insufficient funds to travel regularly for interviews. Mintor is working to remove these barriers. Recognizing that many spend what little they have on phone chat-app bundles, the company is meeting job seekers where they are by chatting with them through commonly-used messaging apps. Through its chat feature Mintor enables users to create resumes, learn and become certified in new skills, receive career and interview support, and get matched with well-suited jobs.
All told, Mintor’s platform reduces the cost of applying for jobs by 90% and has helped businesses greatly reduce the time and money required to identify good job candidates. Since its founding in 2014, the company has already helped thousands of previously overlooked young people find jobs, but it’s just getting started. We chatted with Leànne Viviers, cofounder and CEO of Mintor, about how her company came about and what advice she has for others aiming to make an impact.
- Where did you get your idea? How did you know there was an opportunity?
I had a passion for youth development from a young age. During 10 years of consulting work with corporates and small, medium-sized, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in Africa, the UK, and USA, I noticed time and again how the lack of skilled and right-fit young talent hindered businesses’ growth. South Africa sits with 12 million unemployed. Yet half of SMME entry-level jobs go unfilled, and half of corporate entry-level employees drop out within the first year. This is unacceptable!
Theory Insight: By identifying nonconsumption—when a majority of people are unable to access something that would benefit them due to barriers like cost or complexity—Mintor has unlocked a significant opportunity for innovation. In this case, the company is targeting the 12 million “nonconsumers” of employment.
- What was your initial target market?
Our business mission is to elevate unemployed youth. However our solution is aimed at any entry-level or basic-level skilled worker, and especially those from marginalized or rural communities.
- What did your target market do/use before your innovation was available?
Job seekers would have to spend precious money on going to internet cafes to look for jobs, making copies of CVs to go and drop it off at companies, traveling into the city to search for opportunities etc. On average, it costs job seekers in South Africa $100 pm to look for jobs, which is unaffordable to them so they simply stop or revert to unsustainable ad-hoc jobs in their local community.
Theory Insight: Nonconsumption occurs due to barriers like money, access, time, and skill. In this case, money, skill, and time were major barriers for job seekers.
- How have you raised funding, and what advice would you give others regarding fundraising?
Our customer revenue covers operational expenses and overheads, however we are seeking growth funding now for the first time in order to scale more quickly. My advice to others: if you create value, everything else will follow. Funding alone is not going to solve your business problems. For example, you might think that you need a lot of funding for marketing activities, however perhaps you could reach your target market simply through a few referrals.
- Innovators often feel that the lack of an enabling environment in emerging markets—poor infrastructure, inadequate institutions, and little government support—is insurmountable. How are you overcoming these challenges?
What keeps inspiring me is hearing the stories of other startups that have succeeded and grown much faster than one could think. In Cape Town especially, the startup community is very supportive of each other and I’ve found fantastic mentors and advisors. Pure perseverance enables you to find a way through. As we say in Afrikaans: “waar daar ‘n wil is, is daar ‘n weg” (“where there’s a will, there’s a way”).
- What are some major barriers to your company’s growth?
Businesses often have a conservative mindset on how to recruit and serve their employees, which poses a barrier to adopting our offering. So, we have to do a lot of education and awareness raising. However we’ve already seen the result of referrals once businesses experience the value, with 90% of our customers now coming via a referral.
- What can other innovators learn from your experience? Is there anything you’d do differently?
The one thing I would have placed more emphasis on right from the start would be to find a local founding partner that had the same passion and vision than me, and with complimentary skills. It took me three years to find that person and once Marguerite joined me, we moved forward at a much accelerated pace. However finding that person is much harder than finding a viable idea, in my opinion. So focus on that first and then the rest will fly from there.