I recently sat down to chat with my very own colleague, Zsofia, who is singlehandedly building the professional placement services that is becoming a prominent part of what Heavy Chef is today. I asked her about her experiences, past and present, and her challenges building up a business in South Africa. If you don't know Zsofia yet, meet her at our next Heavy Chef event. She's the blondie with the funny accent and super cute dimples when she smiles.
Zsofia, we know you're very busy building the internship program, so thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Tell us what exactly Heavy Chef is providing under their internship service.
Heavy Chef has the most extensive network of entrepreneurs and startups in Cape Town. We provide skilled talent to these startups to solve real problems and provide a challenging work experience for international interns in one of the most beautiful and dynamic cities in the world. It's a win-win situation.
And what differentiates your services from others?
We focus on real projects and tasks during our internships. Interns can get involved in all aspects of the business given the nature of the startups. Also, the interns become part of our community, attending our monthly events, with the opportunity to network with Africa's most inspiring business owners. A potentially life-changing experience.
We know you were in the educational sector previously, tell us a little bit about your background and how you found Heavy Chef.
I have been working with international students for 13 years. While I was part of EF ( Education First), the world's largest privately-owned language school, I learnt a great deal about students from a wide-variety of countries. What motivates them, what priorities they have and most importantly what experience they are looking for when coming to Cape Town. Heavy Chef's Professional Programmes came to life pretty organically when Fred Roed told me that he had been receiving CVs from international students. We immediately thought of our companies in our community and the first intern was placed.
Oh, so you've been in education for many years. What makes you passionate about it?
Education changes lives. It opens your mind and pushes you to be out of your comfort zone. With Heavy Chef, you learn by doing, which is one of the most valuable types of learning.
What is the hardest part of building up a service like this in South Africa?
Setting the right expectations both on the company's side and the interns' side. The companies need to consider that our interns come from a different cultural background and the interns need to understand the impact they might have on the African economy. This means hard work and dedication.
Any lessons you've learned while building up this business or previous ones that you can share with us?
Rome wasn't built in a day...just focus on providing an outstanding experience and people will soon talk about it.
And please do tell us where the strange spelling of your name comes from?
I am Hungarian. I left Budapest the first time to learn English when I was 18 years old. I knew that without speaking English, my mind cannot be open to the world out there.
And how did you end up in Cape Town?
I came to Cape Town the first time as an intern. After 4 months of working here, I fell in love with the city, went back to Hungary to complete my studies and returned immediately after to start my life in Africa's most magical environment. Life changing experience...
Thanks so much, Zsofia, the whole Heavy Chef team is excited about your success and I'm sure we'll talk soon again as the business grows. You can fill us in with all your lessons learned about start-up life in South Africa.
Just after conducting this interview with Zsofia, I caught up with one of the interns Zsofia had placed. Meet Eloi from France who is interning as a Business Analyst at the Sirdar Group for six months. The feedback we got from Sirdar is that they're thrilled have Eloi whose knowledge, dedication and personality is a perfect fit for them. From the intern's perspective, Eloi says he has had an amazing experience since the first email exchange with Heavy Chef and is thoroughly thrilled to be spending a few months in Cape Town. Quoting his words, he's grateful to Zsofia who made it possible for him to live in this paradise- that is the Mother City- for a couple of months. Well done, Zsofia, we're looking forward to the next chapter!