Zulu queen visits SFA to thank business students working to increase funding for South African orphans

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — A Zulu nation queen traveled to Nacogdoches in March to thank graduate students in Stephen F. Austin State University’s Rusche College of Business for helping an orphanage in her home country of South Africa that houses children who have lost their parents to AIDS.

Queen Nompumelelo Zulu met with the students in SFA Associate Professor Dr. Marcus Cox’s strategic management course who spent the summer and fall of 2023 analyzing the legal structure of the nonprofit Light for Africa Ministries as well as laws that impact nonprofit and for-profit businesses in South Africa.

They also explored funding opportunities, such as grants from the South African government and international aid agencies, as well as assistance from investment funds that target for-benefit initiatives. In addition, the Master of Business Administration students offered guidance on marketing, social media, fundraising and succession planning for the nonprofit.

“This project gave us a real-world opportunity to use the knowledge we gained from our learning on something that really matters,” said Amy Mooneyham, who will earn her MBA in May. “Dr. Cox is absolutely the best when it comes to this. I have taken three classes with him during my MBA, and each one always has real-world problems and cases that allow us to have practical application within the course.”

Queen Nompumelelo and her late husband, King Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu, shared a passion for education in the Zulu nation, the largest ethnic tribe in South Africa. The queen was even made headmistress of the community’s primary school, which has earned awards for academic success. Though the king died in 2021, she continues their mission of providing education for her subjects and job opportunities for all.

The queen’s connection to SFA was established through a collaboration between Robert “Bob” Flournoy, a Lufkin attorney; Cox, SFA associate professor of management and Business Community Services office coordinator; and the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Mdlalose, Light for Africa Ministries director.

“Bob and Jeremiah have been working for over 20 years to raise funds to support the orphanage,” Cox said. “Bob contacted me about a year ago and asked if SFA might be able to assist the nonprofit by leveraging our students’ business knowledge and skills to help a great cause.”

Prior to the SFA partnership, Flournoy and Mdlalose developed ideas, with the support of the Zulu royal family, to raise funds for the orphanage, including a project that would employ local citizens to sew school uniforms. Knowing Cox is coordinator for SFA’s Business and Community Services office, which was created in fall 2022 to connect businesses, nonprofits and government agencies with SFA resources, they approached him about leveraging student knowledge for the project.

“Mr. Flournoy and Rev. Jeremiah asked me if we could help them analyze this business opportunity and make recommendations on how to proceed,” Cox said. “Because our students have previously worked with other nonprofits in East Texas, I saw this as a wonderful opportunity for a win-win collaboration, even if the parties were halfway around the world. It was a great way for students in our MBA program to get acquainted with the complexities of doing business in an international context.”

Two of the students, Lee Arnold, who will earn his MBA in August, and Mooneyham, were in groups that recommended Flournoy and Mdlalose maintain the nonprofit status of the ministry and orphanage but spin off the sewing project as a for-profit entity to facilitate capital infusions. Creating a public corporation could help them reap the benefits of being a for-profit business while gaining some nonprofit tax exceptions.

“We suggested how this newly formed entity could establish its operations through a mix of traditional funding and angel and private investors,” Arnold said. “We also shared our thoughts on creating a secondary product line that would generate a separate income stream that could keep operations stable throughout the year.”

Mooneyham assessed the financial implications and helped pinpoint the amount of funds needed to support production along with revenue streams through the first three years of business.

The Rusche College of Business focuses on providing experiential learning projects to its students because of the impact these projects have on students and their future careers.

“We extend our gratitude to Queen Nompumelelo for giving us this opportunity for real-world learning and trusting us with this critical project,” said Dr. Tim Bisping, dean of the Rusche College of Business.

In return, Queen Nompumelelo extended her appreciation.

“You established the relationship to pursue the vision of his majesty, the king. Thank you,” she told the students.

While at SFA, Queen Nompumelelo also toured the Cole STEM Building, Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center, Office of International Programs, Rusche College of Business and Department of Agriculture.

For more information on the Light for Africa Ministries sewing project, visit lightforafrica.org/projects. To learn more about SFA’s Business and Community Services office, visit sfasu.edu/cob/services/bcs.

Business and Community Services is one of four entities launched in recent years by the Rusche College of Business to help bolster local businesses and nonprofits. The others are the Center for Business and Economic Research and the Arnold Center for Entrepreneurship, which includes the Small Business Resource Hub.