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Stuff from Africa: Gorgina Franks

Cape Town-based stationery company taps into local artistic talent

Monique Verduyn

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Gorgina Franks of Stuff From Africa

A pig in a french maid’s outfit, completewith polka dot stockings and black stilettos, balances a huge slice of birthdaycake on a plate. A sheep in red pyjamas drinks her coffee and reads the morningnews. A white arum lily is set in stark relief on a pink background. Thesezany, colourful images characterise Stuff from Africa’srange of greeting cards, wrapping paper, notebooks, gift tags and gift bags.

Gorgina Franks started the company in 2001,after she was retrenched from Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town. “I have a greatlove for vibrant African art and I wanted to find a commercial medium thatwould showcase local talent and make it accessible,” she says. Today, Stuff from Africa supplies qualitycontemporary stationery to Exclusive Books, Loads of Living, Cape Town’s new Wellness Warehouse and manyother high-end interior design and gift stores. “We have a variety ofindependent stores in this country and they help to foster creativity,” Frankssays.Franks started the business with the cashshe received as part of her retrenchment package and her own savings. Thingswent very slowly in the beginning.“I made hundreds of phone calls,” sherecalls. “The biggest challenge was that you can’t sell this type of productwithout a history, and you can’t develop a history without selling the product.One of my first clients loved the range, but ordered only R400’s worth of cardsbecause they had no idea whether it would sell.”

Franks puts her success down to dogged hardwork. “I did absolutely everything in the beginning and I worked night and day.I don’t believe there is any way of getting around that. It is utterlyexhausting and it has a huge impact on your relationships.”Her experience as a strategic planner wasput to good use, however, ensuring a methodical approach to the development ofthe business. She outsources most designs and artwork to a team of freelancers– artists, graphic designers, illustrators, sculptors, set designers andphotographers – that includes Tracy Paul, Lien Botha and Gemma Orkin. Thetalent she comes across is astounding, she says, and she is always interestedin new artists, although not everyone’s work is suitable. Acknowledging thatit’s hard to say no to people who submit samples, Franks says art is subjectiveand she has to make tough decisions at times.“I brief the artists and they come backwith the finished work. We then have to turn those into digital images and getthem printed. Learning about digital imaging was hard. Any production personwill tell you how difficult it is to teach yourself on the trot. It’s one thingI’ve certainly improved on over the years.”

Franks has also had to toughen up. In thefirst two years of the business, she had to deal with copyright infringement,including one particularly unscrupulous competitor who cut out pictures fromStuff from Africa wrapping paper, stuck themonto cards and sold the cards back to the stores. “The first time I saw that Icried, the second time I cried a little less, and then I got really angry.Competition is good and healthy, but there was nothing creative about whatthese people were doing.”The reputation she developed over time putpaid to the fakers, but Franks has seen several competitors come and go overthe years. Her stiffest competition comes fromoverseas. “I wish South Africans would become more committed to buying SouthAfrican goods and stop feeding the coffers of massive international companies,”she says. “That is how you keep the economy growing.”Her latest coup has seen Stuff from Africasecure a stand at Cape Town International Airport.“My customer was allowed only one card display and they chose Stuff from Africa because they love our products. It’s an addedbonus for them that we are South African.”Stuff from Africa has agents in Johannesburg and Durban,and exports to Namibia, Kenya, Nigeriaand Botswana, as well as theUK, US and Australia.Franks is planning to expand her productrange, always with a focus on stationery. “In addition to the perennialfavourites, you have to be fresh and exciting to retain market share,” sheadds.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Linda Wolf

    Oct 10, 2013 at 11:47

    Hi Georgina
    I am an artist. I have studied graphic design and worked in textile design. I have been freelancing as an artist for many years now. I have some new stunning, bright and dynamic paintings I have done which may work very well in print for cards and gift wrap. I would like to show them to you. Please contact me on 072 152 6246. or email. linda.robin.wolf@gmail.com. I also have a webpage, but these design are not yet on there, but you can look at my other work. http://www.lindawolf.co.za

    Looking forward to hearing from you

    Linda

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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