Marimba Jam (Pty) Ltd
Kiara Ramklass, 28, has a decade of experience in entrepreneurship and music education. She is the founder and director of Marimba Jam, a social enterprise focusing on bridging the gaps in education inequality in South Africa through increased access to African music education programmes.
She is motivated to ensure every child has the opportunity to experience the benefits of African music education and gain important life skills that contribute towards their holistic development and success after school. Marimba Jam has trained more than 1 200 schoolchildren over the past five years.
This year, they are teaching 450 learners every week. Marimba Jam has created employment for more than 70 university students and graduates, as part-time teachers and performers. It employs six full-time staff and 35 part-time staff. The company has a nonprofit arm, Marimba Jam Cares. Building on its success in Cape Town, it recently opened a branch in Johannesburg.
As a 2022 Mandela Washington Fellow, Kiara plans to replicate Marimba Jam’s hub model in all major cities of South Africa and expand throughout Africa.
Marimba Jam has received several awards, including the Number One Youth-Owned Business at the Western Cape Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards; first prize at the Investec StartUp School Africa and the Billion Acts of Peace Award, where it was chosen from more than eight million acts of peace worldwide as one of seven finalists and winners of the Billion Acts of Peace Fellowship.
“A powerful motivator for me is seeing the incredible impact our work has on the community and our country. I find a great sense of purpose in the mission of Marimba Jam, which is to make music education accessible to as many youths as possible and use music as a tool for nation-building and peace-building in the community,” she says.
- BA, Film and Media Screen Production, University of Cape Town
- Certificate in TV & Radio Broadcasting and Presenting, Damelin College
- Centre for Entrepreneurship: Rapid Incubator, False Bay College
- International Business Dialogue Exchange Programme with Boston University, US, Tsiba Business School
- Certificate: Investec Startup School for Entrepreneurs
- Western Cape Entrepreneurship Recognition Award: Marimba Jam was named the top youth-owned Enterprise in the Western Cape in 2019.
- Billion Acts of Peace Award from the Peace Jam Foundation (led by 14 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates) and participated in a one-year global fellowship
- Global Young Innovators Programme: Selected to participate in the seven-month course by Newable (UK) and Innovate UK. I was awarded a grant of £10 000 to develop a new virtual reality app, the African Music Heritage project
- Mandela Washington Fellowship, for young African leaders. Attended the University of Texas at Austin, studying in the McCombs Business School for a six-week fellowship
- Investec Startup School for Entrepreneurs: Winner of pitch competition
- Represented South Africa at the Social Enterprise World Forum held in Addis Abba, 2019
- News24’s 100 Young Mandelas of the Future
- Guinness World Record: Marimba Jam successfully broke the record for the largest marimba ensemble in 2018
- Dedat False Bay College: Winner at the Centre for Entrepreneurship Pitch Event, 2021
As a grade 11 learner, I attended a leadership camp that inspired me to address a social issue I felt passionate about and take action to solve it. I organised a small community project at school to share the joy of playing marimba with less privileged students who didn’t have the opportunity to learn music. The impact that project had on the beneficiaries was so profound that it deeply affected how I saw my agency in the world and my ability to take action to make a difference. Even 12 years later, it is still such a powerful memory that continues to motivate me to grow my company.
You don’t have to have it all figured out when you’re at university — your degree does not define your journey. Be confident in the risks you take and don’t be afraid to turn down an opportunity that might sound good on paper, but that does not align with your passion and sense of purpose. When you find something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning you should try to define that sense of purpose by establishing your reason “why” early on — in business, it is important to dig deeper beyond the day-to-day activities of your business to really understand the bigger impact of the work you’re doing. Invest time in building relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and especially mentors. You will probably come across three different types of business mentors out there and you should be intentional about finding the right ones for you. These mentors include academics who are well-studied in the theory of business, business coaches who work with many different entrepreneurs, and finally, people who are actually running their own businesses who have first-hand experience of what it takes. Try to find a mix of all three mentors along your business journey, knowing that you might outgrow some mentors along the way. Another thing to remember is: the money will come, but consistency is key. You may see your peers starting to earn higher salaries and might be tempted to throw in the towel to pursue a more conservative career, but there is so much to gain from sticking it out through the tough times. It is possible to earn your dream salary through entrepreneurship but it might take a bit longer to get there. In the dark times, remember your “why” or your reason for starting the business. This should be so powerful that it helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel and encourages you to persevere through the hard times.
A South Africa where all children at school have access to quality education and resources that allow them to explore their potential and receive holistic development from a young age. When more young people leave school feeling confident in their abilities and exposed to quality education, I believe this will be the basis of creating a more equal society for all. I would like to see more opportunities for employment to strengthen the South African economy and ensure a better standard of living for more citizens. I would like to see a more peaceful society where women and children feel safe and the levels of violence are drastically reduced. I also hope that in five years our government will be more intentional about holding public officials accountable for corruption so that the growth of our country is not held hostage by criminals.