Bridget McNulty

Sweet Life Diabetes Community

What does your company do?

Sweet Life empowers South Africans with diabetes to live a healthy, happy life with the condition. We are South Africa’s largest online diabetes community, a non-profit and a PBO, and our singular focus is on diabetes education and empowerment. We do this through our Facebook community, website with easy-to-understand diabetes information (backed by South Africa’s top diabetes experts), leaflets and booklets in public clinics and, most recently, a WhatsApp chatbot that meets people where they are, with all the necessary information to understand diabetes, and how to manage it. This is so important because diabetes is currently the number one killer of women in South Africa, the second leading cause of death in men. But it’s not a lethal condition! People are dying because they don’t understand their condition. And there’s no national diabetes education programme to help them. We believe the right education - in the right format, and the right language, at the right health literacy level, to the right person, exactly when they need it - can go a long way towards solving this urgent problem.

What is your biggest success?

A big part of the reason people don’t get diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes until they start presenting with complications (and why a non-lethal condition kills so many South Africans) is stigma. This stigma is prevalent in our society, and is exacerbated by the language and imagery used around diabetes. In 2023, we launched #LanguageMatters South Africa ( and, in a world-first, created a stock image library of people with diabetes doing all the things we do: injecting, checking blood sugar, cooking and eating healthy food, exercising. The models were all people from our community, actually living with diabetes, and we’ve made the images available to anyone, anywhere in the world, for free ( All the images are tagged with diabetes keywords, highlighting that these are people with diabetes in the images, and they have been viewed 8,564,619 times so far.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

Finding the right business model. Sweet Life began in 2011 as a free quarterly magazine, relying on advertising for funding. We always had the Facebook page and website, but moved entirely online in 2016 and struggled to monetise it. It was only a few years later that we became an NPO and found a business model that works for us. We currently apply for grants (we were part of the first cohort of international grantees for the T1D Community Fund, powered by Panorama Global), work with pharma for sponsorship of diabetes education campaigns, and offer tailored marketing campaigns to diabetes-related companies. We just received our SED certificate, so we are now eligible for Socio-Economic Development contributions as well.