Social Entrepreneurism in Action: Nikki Holzberg ’11 in South Africa

Nikki Holzberg, ’11, is a social entrepreneur who’s just getting started. Taking what she’s learned from CMC courses and a fellowship and applying lessons to real world scenarios, she’s already making a real impact on real people.

After receiving a CMC Uoroboros Fellowship, an award that seeks to enrich student’s interests abroad, in the summer after her junior year, Holzberg travelled to Cape Town, South Africa to spend time with nonprofit organizations there.

She was exposed to groups working particularly with women in the country, addressing microlending needs, organic farming, gardening methods, and basic business and finance skills.

In particular, she found Red Gold and Green Educare (RGG), a Rastafarian community in which women run an independent daycare, striving to keep children off the streets and provide an educational environment in which to grow and learn.

Holzberg was struck by the women’s dedication and passion most.

“These women came together and made a daycare out of nothing. They don’t receive an income. They’re just doing the work because they recognized a need. It’s not just about a few kids, it’s about affecting an entire community.”

At the end of her fellowship, she wanted to leave them with a token of appreciation for their selfless work. She bought them a printer/copier machine to aid their office operations. But as she left the country, she was left with the feeling that she wanted to do more.

Back in the states, Holzberg communicated with the teachers at Educare, who identified a more secure structure as their most critical need. Holzberg was sure she could help the women establish a more sturdy and proper dwelling for the children. As it stood then, the daycare center’s roof leaked whenever it rained.

So she began fundraising with a goal to build a new space for the daycare.

A Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) major, Holzberg took her knowledge from courses in entrepreneurship and applied them to fundraising efforts back in Claremont.

In partnership with local businesses in the Claremont Village, she raised funds. She also talked to the CMC student Senate about her efforts, fundraised at dorm meetings, and even held a bake sale.

For every student who donates to her cause, she is matching the amount with her own money.

To date, she’s collected a total of $3,248. She’s still raising money currently through her blog:

In total she hopes to raise total of $12,000 for the center.

Holzberg says that CMC enabled her to better understand how to apply her passion and put it into action. “CMC encourages our students to take initiative and to act. To be an entrepreneur, it’s all about diving in and taking risks,” she said.

Lessons she’s taking with her as she leaves CMC are grounded in leadership ethos.

“I learned to speak many languages,” Holzberg continues. “Not just in the literal sense, but to really know your audience. Speak in such a way that you convey information so that it is actually being received. Different people are motivated by different things.

“I also learned about leveraging all your assets. Using every single resource available to me. And at CMC, I had so many resources; professors with so many lessons to share, help from Career Services there’s so much people are offering here.”

In her five-year future she sees an MBA and possibly starting her own social enterprise.

Continuing on her path of service to others, after graduation this May, she’ll be heading to Argentina on a Rotary Scholarship.

“CMC taught me to go after what you want. Think This will happen; and not I hope this will happen. If you do, good things will happen to you.”