How do you measure success?

Josh Cox runs Trade-Mark, a social enterprise that assists tradesmen in poor communities and townships.
Credit: Luke Daniel/Red Bull

Josh Cox was able to make a key breakthrough in how he runs his social enterprise Trade-Mark when he realised that he was measuring his outcomes based on an incorrect assumption.

The realisation came to him shortly after he was able to secure R2.5 million in funding from the Industrial Development Corporation’s (IDC) Social Enterprise Fund in February.

Trade-Mark is a non-profit organisation that assists tradesmen from poor communities and townships in growing their businesses through business skills training and marketing. Cox’s organisation also links tradesmen up with suburban homeowners who require their services.

The idea to start Trade-Mark came after Cox was approached by a friend from Diepsloot township in Johannesburg who was also a tradesman and requested assistance in the form of a reference letter as well as help in creating business cards. Following his assistance, his friend was able to secure contracts of up to R40 000.

“It occurred to me that I could identify other tradesmen with similar needs and help them in the same way,” says Cox.

He then returned to his hometown of Cape Town in 2012, where he identified the nearby community Nomzamo, Somerset West as an area where he could assist tradesmen.

Initial funding of R20 000 from LifeCo UnLtd South Africa in 2012 and R300 000 in funding from the Douglas Murray Trust last year helped him get started. A website soon followed and Trade-Mark was registered as a non-profit trust.

“From then on we received exposure on the radio and in local newspapers and the business really began to grow,” says Cox.

He received more requests for assistance and Trade-Mark applied to the IDC for funding and was successful.

But, he discovered he was making a crucial error when he attempted to measure the impact that his organisation was having on the lives of the tradesmen and their families.

Says Cox: “We assumed that a higher income would lead to a better life for people in poor communities. On further investigation, we realised that this was not necessarily the case. “Without life skills training, including management of personal finances, some of our tradesmen, did not experience an improvement in their quality of life, even though their earnings had increased.”

He realised that he needed a tool to measure whether his organisation’s services were improving the lives of the tradesmen and their families.

In February he began looking at organisations involved with similar to see what these organisations were doing.

It was also here where he first heard about the Poverty Stop Light tool that The Clothing Bank had begun using to measure its outcomes. The Poverty Stop Light is a measuring tool used to develop strategies to improve the lives of low-income families. The tool uses 50 indicators to measure poverty.

“A survey is done with the tradesman and their family and for each indicator produces a result of red (dire poverty), orange (moderate poverty) or green (above moderate poverty).”

Trade-Mark’s pilot programme is a partnership with The Business Place in Philippi where it provides tradesmen with business and life skills training as well as mentorship support through a programme called Business Builder.

Cox has applied the tool to measure the programme, with initial surveys having been completed in August.

The figures he submitted to the IDC as part of the business plan to get funding, project that Trade-Mark will be financing itself within five years.

Cox says Trade-Mark is now reaching tradesmen beyond just Somerset West and its surrounding areas and he plans to expand to Johannesburg soon.

The organisation currently has 18 tradesmen on its database. Tradesmen who want to access Trade-Mark’s services need to have secured and completed at least one contract and should request a referral from a previous client via Trade-Mark’s website.


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Douglas Murray Trust, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Josh Cox, LifeCo UnLtd South Africa, social enterprise, The Business Place, The Clothing Bank, The Poverty Stop Light, Trade-Mark

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