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Alexander Daniel: Weaving a Different Story

The Kraal Gallery is changing the face of craft by marketing internationally and letting artistry rein.

Tracy Lee Nicol

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South Africa has a rich heritage of handcrafts. And with a booming tourism sector there’s plenty of opportunity for hand crafters to create an income. Trouble is, the informal industry is vulnerable to exploitation and inconsistent trade, leaving very little room to break the cycle of poverty.

This is where Genadendal Hand Weavers and its associated Kraal Gallery, founded and run by Alexander Daniel, is changing lives.

By elevating craft to art, the project is empowering women with decent incomes to support their families, develop skills, and showcase talent to international markets. We ask Daniel how he’s making it work.

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What prompted you to start The Kraal Gallery?

South Africa has enormous talent, resources, beautiful people and landscape, but the extreme economic divisions bother me.

How can we live compassionately when our fellow man is reduced to nothing but cardboard and statistics? When my mother passed away in 1998 my father and I wanted to start a programme that empowered women to honour her memory. My team and I identified Genadendal as the ideal area to help because of its history of empowerment when slavery ended, and we saw the need for more help.

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What is The Kraal Gallery’s model?

Too many NGOs run out of funds because they rely on handouts. So while we don’t have a business model in the sense of creating profit, we’ve achieved a model that is self-sustaining while delivering real impact.

We generate good income through our stores, which act as a safety net to cover rent and wages, and they’re important for controlling our brand message, quality and interaction.

But our real breakthrough has been securing a deal that will deliver 400m2 of hand woven rugs per month to the US starting toward the end of the year. This is a fantastic win because it will be consistent income for the organisation.

How do your weavers benefit from being part of The Kraal Gallery?

Firstly, we pay them a strong and fair wage. The brand is centred on empowerment, and we believe customers would pay say 10% more for a product that’s made with integrity than something that’s cheaper but with a dark history.

When a product is sold for R350, R200 goes to the weaver to compensate their time and talent. The more skilled they are, the higher the percentage.

This division of sale ensures our ‘weaverbirds’ get the majority of the revenue for their time and means each piece is a creation rather than something just part of her day to get paid.

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Your online shop is in US dollars. Why dollars and why market internationally?

We chose USD because when we set up the site we wanted to use PayPal which at the time was only for US and UK accounts. But dollars are also an international currency which opens up more purchase opportunities all year around.

Luckily we have a partner in the US that was willing to assist and helped build a US following. We’ve started working on our SEO too and it’s working – people from all over the world are finding us, making enquiries and purchasing.

How are you shifting perceptions about craft and what influence does it have on your customers?

We encourage our weavers to believe in themselves and make a point of improving their self-confidence. While we strive for quality and comment where needed, criticism is not constructive.

Each weaver is also told she is an ‘interior decorator’ and ‘artist’ and truly wonderful, which improves the quality and creativity of her work. Prescribing things can stifle creativity, so carte blanche is given to a weaver who wants it. What this means for customers is that works they purchase are high quality, truly unique, characterful, and tell a story. That’s where the shift between art and craft happens.

Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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