Disabled entrepreneurs scoop millions in prize money for their ventures

The SAB Foundation's Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards has instilled a shimmer of hope in disabled entrepreneurs.

Luvuyo Sume and Riaan Knight, the co-founders behind Silicone Prosthetic Liner For Amputees. Picture: SAB Foundation/Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG – The SAB Foundation's Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards saw 17 social innovators being awarded more than R15 million.

Eyewitness News spoke to a couple of the winners and the executive director of the SAB Foundation, Bridgit Evans about the impact of the awards.

“In addition to the prize money awarded to the entrepreneurs, the winners are each assessed and placed in a tailored, individualised programme with a suitable business mentor, coach and the necessary technical support. In addition, SAB Foundation also provides access to psychologists and counsellors to ensure entrepreneurs' well being,” said Evans.

Luvuyo Sume and Riaan Knight, founders of Prosthetic Engineering Technologies scooped the first prize in the Disability Empowerment category. Their innovation is a high-quality silicone prosthetic liner for amputees. This liner acts as a shock absorber while walking, and whether worn above or below the knee, it ensures a comfortable fit while aiding users in maintaining limb hygiene.

“They will be able to wear their prosthetic legs without having to endure bruises and wounds that are caused by woollen stump socks, which are what they get issued within government hospitals,” said the pair.

Sume and Knight point out that silicone liners are only available to amputees with access to private medical aid, adding that amputees who live in rural areas and townships cannot afford this crucial device.

“With our product, they will enjoy improved limb health and hygiene as silicone liners can be washed easily and dry instantly compared to woollen stump socks which cause a lot of sweat and take a long time to dry.”

SAB’s Evans shares that the Social Innovation Awards programme is flexible and the support given to each winner is adjusted to their needs, as mutually agreed upon by the winner, their business coach and their mentor.

“The Disability Empowerment Awards are extensions of the Social Innovations Awards and support innovators and entrepreneurs with disabilities with grant funding, tailored mentorship and business development.”

Christiaan Van Den Berg and Marius Erasmus are founders of Job-Abled, a recruitment platform for persons with a disability. They were awarded second place in the Disability Empowerment category, receiving R950, 000 in prize money.

“Our focus is entry-level jobs for people with disabilities reason being, that many people with disabilities do not have grade 12 due to the schooling system.”

Job-Abled's innovative solution involves partnerships with corporations and educational institutions that provide job shadowing opportunities, and community project involvement for people with disabilities.

“Jobs cannot be uploaded onto the app by companies if at least the minimum wage or market-related wages are offered. The system simply does not allow that. Therefore, a transparent process before jobs are uploaded and appointments are made.”

Evans told Eyewitness News that in partnership with the Medunsa Organisation for Disabled Entrepreneurs, the SAB Foundation also works to assist disabled entrepreneurs to grow their businesses through skills training programmes, with the intention of creating a pipeline for SAB Foundation's other programmes.

“Over R46.3 million in grant funding and business support has been deployed to support 240 entities. Of these entrepreneurs, 195 are entrepreneurs with a disability and 45 are businesses that are improving the quality of life for persons with disabilities - either through assistive technology or access to employment, ”said Evans