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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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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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