CAPE TOWN – With the first half 2017 already behind us, Fix Forward saw tremendous growth and development both in the company and its tradesmen. As the business continues to go from strength to strength, we thought it was the perfect time to sit down with our founder, Joshua Cox, to gain a little more insight into how Fix Forward came about and where he envisions it going.
1) What inspired you to start Fix Forward?
Back in 2008, when I was living in Johannesburg and working for a non-profit, I became good friends with a tradesman named Simon from Diepsloot. Simon had done some work for me previously and he approached me to write him a reference letter to secure more business. With a bit more credibility I saw his business grow and really get somewhere, and so was inspired to start Fix Forward, initially just as a side project.
Creating opportunities for people to improve their lives, particularly people from low-income communities, has always been a passion and a drive of for me.
2) Getting started, what was most challenging for you?
In the early days, trying to get Fix Forward going whilst fully employed elsewhere, it sometimes felt like we were making such slow progress, and that was definitely demotivating. Fortunately I had some fantastic people around me, helping with Fix Forward. They really worked hard to move the business forward and keep me motivated. They continue to serve Fix Forward as trustees.
3) What are the key indicators by which you measure your impact?
Good question! I think the primary measure of our impact is always going to be seeing tradesmen progress and improve in both their personal and professional lives. Secondly, we need to ensure that Fix Forward remains viable as a company. We do this by setting ambitious goals and keeping a tight focus on delivering the best service we can to our customers.
4) Do you have any organisations or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) whom you consider as role models or benchmarks?
Yes, I have always been inspired by the work The Clothing Bank does, empowering young mothers from the townships to start businesses. Similarly to us, they focus on developing the person as a whole, not just providing them with business skills. They have been hugely successful, reaching women in communities across the country.
5) Where do you see Fix Forward going from here?
We are constantly developing our business model and adapting to ever-changing dynamics. Our next major step is making the move up to Gauteng and ensuring that our quality levels and professionalism in that new space remain consistent with our operations in Cape Town.
6) Does Fix Forward undertake any fundraising?
We are very fortunate to have many great supporters on board, including Investec, Builders Warehouse, E-Squared, Apex Hi Trust, the DG Murray Trust, the IDC, DHK Architects and others. These organisations and foundations have been critical in getting things going. We are about 40% self-funded at this stage, with plans to be self-funding in the next 18 months.
7) With such a brilliant business model, has Fix Forward been officially recognised with any achievements or rewards?
We have. I am very proud to say that in 2015, I won the Under 35 Maverick award for Social Innovation and Job Creation. And, in 2016, Fix Forward was a finalist in the Cape Talk Small Business Awards and I was nominated as one of the 100 Young Independents of South Africa by Independent Media.
8) What does success look like for Fix Forward?
I would consider Fix Forward successful once we have managed to expand nationally and are recognized as leaders in the industry with a reputation for delivering exceptional service to our clients. As a result, we would see our tradesmen’s business doing well and their lives improving through support provided by Fix Forward.
9) What differentiates Fix Forward from similar initiatives?
Fix Forward is different to regular companies in that we are driven primarily by our social mission rather than a profit motive. We are different to other non-profits in that we have a strong commercial model which helps us move away from being overly reliant on donors; this creates potential to scale up both our impact and our business.
10) What are the characteristics required to ensure tradesmen are successful after joining Fix Forward?
Our most successful tradesmen all have the following traits – confidence and pride in their work, and a hunger to grow both professionally and personally in order to better improve their lives.