Cedric is an agro-ecologist and livelihood development professional whose mission is to establish symbiotic relationships between humans and their natural environment. He draws the skills and expertise that he applies to this work from over 6 years of professional and educational engagements in 8 countries spanning Africa, Europe and North America.
Cedric is the Founder and Lead of Weed2Pesticide, a University of Oxford-endorsed social enterprise working towards firstly, building a rural community-driven supply industry (through harvesting) for a pernicious invasive weed and secondly, processing the weed into an organic, environmentally-friendly, commercial bio-pesticide. Apart from representing the word “to”, the “2” in the name of the startup signifies the double-barrelled nature of the solution that it brings about i.e. it addresses biological invasion and its associated problems as well as and the environmental damage caused by synthetic pesticides. Cedric was selected to speak on the initiative at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, specifically in the Sustainable Development Goals Tent. Weed2Pesticide is currently in its early stages, fundraising for pesticide registration trials.
Cedric is also a Continuing Member and Visiting Academic of the University of Oxford’s Linacre College.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I was born and grew up in Zimbabwe where I took my first tertiary qualification, a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) degree at Lupane State University. I then worked on conservation programmes in the Matobo Hills UNESCO World Heritage Site for a Zimbabwean NGO called Dambari Wildlife Trust, where I first observed rural communities’ losing battle against biological invasion. It is in the stage that followed this i.e. during my MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the University of Oxford through a Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld Hoffmann Scholarship, that I decided to become an entrepreneur. As part of this scholarship’s Leadership Programme, we (the scholars) were invited to ideate, develop and pitch social entrepreneurship ideas as part of what is called the Business Challenge, in which business training and mentorship were provided. As I had already been thinking of an innovative way to help the above-mentioned rural communities in their fight against biological invasion and also to reduce pesticide damage to the natural environment, this invitation got me considering entrepreneurship and realising that it is actually an effective way of helping these communities and the environment.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is the art of solving of the world’s problems in an economically viable way, which in turn ensures the sustainability of the solutions. Entrepreneurship is also the driver of innovation.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
I first knew that my idea was good enough to develop when it was shortlisted into the top 6, and subsequently into the top 4 out of 15 proposed projects in the 2017/18 Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Leadership Programme’s Business Challenge.
Further confirmation came in the form of my being selected to present the project at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, specifically in the Sustainable Development Goals Tent, and further when I received endorsement from the University of Oxford for the initiative.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
a) Leadership, as you will often need to be able to influence (positively and ethically) certain processes or elements in order to facilitate the success of your business
b) Networking, as it is important to build a cocktail of human resources that you are able to call upon for information, skills, contacts, finance or other resources that are vital for your business at given times
c) Innovation, as the entrepreneurship journey is riddled with many unique challenges which need thinking outside-of-the-box in order to overcome
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite part of being an entrepreneur is the variegated nature of the job. Although there is a general description as to what one would be doing as an entrepreneur, there is no specific job description and each day is unique in its composition, activities and outcomes, and can often be unpredictable. This spontaneity is very exciting for me!
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
I am most inspired by Fred Swaniker, an African entrepreneur and leadership development expert, who is the founder of the African Leadership University, among other institutions. His innovation and bravery in disrupting the normative order of delivering tertiary education in Africa by successfully pioneering maverick approaches to doing so, is most inspiring. Among his approaches are aspects of looking at conservation as a business, which is what my startup, Weed2Pesticide, is putting into play. This out-of-the-box thinking, demonstrated by the afore-mentioned, is what I admire most about Fred Swaniker, subscribe to and aspire to.
If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
Every successful person has had at least one of what is called a “turn-back moment” in their life. This is a stage of difficulty that they reach when they consider turning back on their initiative, whilst also being faced with the option to continue forward. I would want to ask Fred Swaniker about his “turn-back moments”, which I assume to have been abundant given the disruptive nature of his achievements, and how he overcame them. I believe that I would be able to draw much inspiration from hearing about this, which inspiration would help to keep me powered through my entrepreneurship journey.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
There was a time when I attempted to work solo on my initiative. I soon realised that this was not viable, and rather, networking as much as possible would help me move forward. There is almost always someone who either has something (information, skills, contacts, finance or other resources) or knows someone who has that something that could help your business.
How have you funded your ideas?
I initially funded the development of my ideas with finance from the Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld Hoffmann Scholarship. I am now funding them from personal savings, whilst seeking funding from grant-giving bodies for pesticide registration trials.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
I have been helped by:
a) the 2017/18 Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholarship Leadership Programme’s
Business Challenge in which Weed2Pesticide was a finalist
b) my competitive selection to present Weed2Pesticide at the 2019 World
Economic Forum, specifically in the Sustainable Development Goals Tent, where I gained impeccable networks and contacts
c) my selection for endorsement by the University of Oxford for Weed2Pesticide
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
The good thing about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire is that there are numerous and extremely helpful resources for help in building up a business in Oxfordshire. Enterprising Oxford, The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and the University of Oxford Careers Service are just but three of those which are available. These are the ones from which I have sought help. Several others exist.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!):
Enterprising Oxford, The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and the University of Oxford Careers Service Any last words of advice? Keep your dreams close to your heart and never lose sight of them.