Lucia Manthata, CEO of Little Harvard Kids Academy, winner of the 2019 Standard Top Women pitching den, Mpumalanga

Briefly tell us more about yourself and your journey thus far.

In 2014 I took a voluntary package as my position was up for retrenchment. All this happened during my divorce and I had a two-year-old I had to take care of. I always had a passion for kids and education and I believe that if it pains you then you should do something about it.

My pain was seeing our matric pass rate go down in my region. I believe that the success of anything in this world depends on how good the foundation is. The same is true regarding our education system. I believe that if we lay a good foundation, we will get better results.

Can you tell us more about Little Harvard Kids Academy?

Little Harvard offers a childcare services and an advanced collegiate based curriculum designed for kids aged 3 months to 6 years. Little Harvard exist to provide premier childcare services aimed at enhancing traditional daycare methodologies and integrating extracurricular interests (such as art and craft, dance, theatre, music and gymnastics etc.)

Our general and continuing education programmes help mentor and tutor aftercare students through school homework, assignments and provide a base of understanding and communication to ensure success in future.

We also realised that kids fail because they don’t understand questions as a result of not reading. We started a programme called ‘drop everything’ and started reading with the kids. We assign a book per child to read and every Friday they tell us the 10 new words they have learned, the meaning of those words and how to use them in a sentence. This helps them to excel in all subjects.

It also does not close during normal public holidays and school holidays. Little Harvard is open for parents who work odd shifts and long hours. The 24-hour facility is not for parents to relinquish their responsibilities and have a reckless lifestyle, but is there for people that don’t have a social support structure to look after their children.

As the owner, together with staff members, we make sure that the academy runs smoothly. Little Harvard Kids Academy is open to be franchised and to partner with the existing crèches, where they will be able to facilitate the children in the whole country. We are fully bilingual and have only had positive feedback from parents.

Business achievements

-The standard bank Top woman regional winner 2019

-NYDA business mentor

-Top 7 National finalists on the Raiz-corp pitch and polish 2018 and the winner of the provincial 2018.

-best 20 National finalists in South Africa on the SEDA pitch perfect competition.

Top 9 innovative franchisible business in south Africa through Franchise SA 2018 .

-nominated for the successful woman in business award in the Gert Sibande district Mpumalanga 2017.

-Nominated for the woman in education award in the Gert Sibande district Mpumalanga 2017.

-Winner of Sowetan young boss 2017

-Feature in different media houses e.g. successful woman magazine, Sunday sun, live interview ANN7, SA FM, Ligwalagwala FM, RISE FM, MAKING MOVES etc.

Have you always had a passion for education, especially when it comes to the education of children?
Yes because it was a pain for me to see matrics results dropping and I felt that the solution is in the early childhood development by giving our children good educational foundation and teaching the high performances culture at a tender age. 

What have been some of your biggest challenges and successes?
Biggest challenge was to build the brand and the trust that as a black business in town you can also produce excellent results. We could only achieve this after our firs graduations. When our kids started grade one they could compete for a top position in class and that made us so proud. The biggest success was to be selected as one of the 9 innovative businesses that can be franchised. 

Do you find that women often meet different challenges than their male counterparts?
Yes as women we have so much responsibilities: family and work. You constantly have to prove yourself.

South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates, especially among the youth. What, in your opinion, more can be done to ensure we provide our youth with necessary skills and jobs in order to alleviate unemployment?
The evidence suggests that it’s a multifaceted issue. The biggest factors are the evolving nature of the labour market and mismatches between the skills needed in the labour market and those provided through the educational system.

A key difficulty facing young job seekers, in particular, is the fact that South Africa’s labour market favours highly skilled employees. The high demand for skilled labour means that those with a post-secondary qualification are far more likely to find employment than those with only a metric certificate.

We need to support and fund people who are passionate about what they do, especially entrepreneurs who own businesses with the potential to create more jobs.

Any advice for young people out there?
Allow yourself to grow gradually because that is how you discover yourself and your potential.

Quick-fire questions

Who or what inspires you?
Myself

What is your favorite getaway destination?
Durban

What would you do with an extra hour in your day?
Rest. I believe that we need to give our body enough time to rest because it is our biggest asset as entrepreneurs.