The Basement: How We Built The First Modern Youth Hall In Zimbabwe With No Initial Dollars

The Basement: How We Built The First Modern Youth Hall In Zimbabwe With No Initial Dollars

Last year, our team was asked to fundraise and manage a new youth hall building project with a budget of zero. We're proponents for bootstrapping your start-up, but this was the ultimate. It's one thing to be able to lead people when you have money, but it's a completely different ballgame when all you have is vision and a few cokes and buns (not even cash for hot dogs). We were given the task of turning an old basement into a vibrant community youth hall.

Dust. There was lots of it. But before we started sweeping, we put together a cost sheet of what we needed to raise and mapped out how to do this.

With an economy that doesn't work, with banks shutting down, and almost every business owner complaining about how tight things are, we couldn't just rock up to a large corporation and say "Hey, throw us bone and we'll give you a cool plaque and send you a drawing." That wasn't gonna fly.

So we needed to get the youth in Harare to buy into the project and take chunks of the fundraising pie through little projects.

It's a challenge to get young people who are constantly lit up by social media to think about a longterm project and get their hands dirty. Music albums were launched and proceeds given to the basement. Cars were washed, fashion shows (although really small) were put on, cocktails were held, and numerous other efforts to contribute to this community space where people could share, develop spiritually and educationally, and connect in a safe and amped environment.

It also couldn't be just a normal space. Atmosphere sets the stage for momentum—whether it's a youth innovation hall, a non-profit trailer, corporate offices or a studio. It couldn't be a place that had old chairs, minimal lighting to save on energy costs, a broken ping-pong table (because a broken one is better than none at all, right?), or weird signs.

There's nothing worse than when corners are cut because of a lack of vision. Funding always follows vision. This place had to carry its own identity.

After the vision-casting, painting, dusting, hanging, tiling, projector installation, 8-foot steel doors, coffee shop, signs, chairs, and a really cool stage were all installed, we'd raised over 50K. The momentum kicked in and the efforts of the little fundraisers did too. A few other businessmen found their way into the basement while it was being renovated and gave us more momentum in the form of dollars.

Considering the longterm impact of what this could do for the education of teens, local entrepreneurs, and aspiring young careers, we knew this was worth it. Besides bars, pubs and a few coffee shops, this is a different space that formulates a community springboard to people’s lives and ideas and helps them to grow in all aspects of life.

It's already packed out every weekend and has started to generate revenue from month 1. This is also the home of our monthly Startup Pitch Nights, which you can RSVP for here.

Thanks to all the little fundraisers that made it happen. The space is being used every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Before—there was a cement room. Add a few instigators and no initial dollars and now there is "The Basement."