WHERE IT ALL STARTED

essay GIFTS was founded in 2006 as a joint venture between Beatrice and her brother Rial. (Rial has since moved on to persue a career as a ceramist.) Beatrice, a pharmacist by profession, returned to South Africa after spending several years in the United Kingdom as area manager for the largest pharmaceutical retailer in Europe. She needed a new challenge and wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. Hence, a corporate catalogue of products, each made by a local artist and with its own unique story or “essay” were put together to take to the corporate market. She believes, to this day, that the answer to crime in South Africa is job creation.

In May 2006, the essay dream took off when delegates from City of Johannesburg noticed essay at the Tourism Indaba in Durban and commissioned 5 000 gifts for the 2010 Soccer Handover function in Germany. This order created 50 temporary employment opportunities in an area with an unemployment rate of 80%. In 2007, essay GIFTS was joined by a BEE company. More recently, for a commission by Woolworths for their Christmas window dressing, our artists created a vivid bouquet of indigenous flowers by upcycling plastic waste. Over 10 000 units of milk bottles, plastic bottles, strapping, single use plastic cutlery and plastic hangers were artfully repurposed into handmade Proteas. These artworks were crafted in partnership with our empowerment partner, Kidz Positive. (Read more under news and media – hyperlink)

We strive to provide our clients with unique gifts and designs that are on-brief, reflect the client's culture and supports real job creation in South Africa, especially in vulnerable informal sectors often overlooked by traditional job creation schemes. Since the beginning we wanted to offer potential clients something importers cannot: customised, unique gifts that are directly linked to their brand, event, theme or campaign.

A MANAGED SERVICE, FROM ORDER TO DELIVERY

essay GIFTS bridges the gap between clients and the creative partners, managing the process to ensure that these small businesses deliver a world-class product on time.

We assist disadvantaged communities who lack market access by integrating low technology, low cost, handmade production in a meaningful way into the fast, modern economy of mass production. We motivate our clients and their markets to invest their promotional budgets in our partner factories. Although locally produced gifts can be more expensive than imported items, this slightly elevated cost of procuring proudly South African gifts is offset by a valuable brand building opportunity, showing that they support job creation. This, in turn, assists them in building social capital and goodwill among their stakeholders.

essay GIFTS plays a vital role in creative partnerships by:

  1. Achieving sales through the design and delivery of a quality product
  2. Enabling growth with previously disadvantaged communities
  3. Financial support - it supplies bridging finance by paying all partners a 50% deposit in order to buy raw materials to start the order.

Our business is founded on the core belief that market-related business practices can drive sustainable development in South Africa and create opportunities for people to make a living without having to migrate to urban centres and leave their families and communities behind. Fundamentally, all of us at essay GIFTS believe sustainable development will improve social upliftment and create a better life for those previously disadvantaged South Africans.

Growing essay GIFTS has been a learning process. We have learned from our challenges over the years. Temporary and full-time employment opportunities were created for many low-skilled and unskilled South Africans and the opportunities provided by essay GIFTS have enabled our production partners to upskill their own staff complement. We strongly believe that our future is with our youth. We take pride in temporarily employing young ladies to help the office staff when packing large orders. We teach them how to perform quality checks and repack each item. In this way, they learn a new skill and make sure that only products of the highest quality leave our premises. A big part of the reward is hearing the stories of the people we work with every day. We have seen people’s confidence grow, enabling them to seek better opportunities, even if she is a 45-year old disabled woman earning her first income ever. Our system makes use of a core team (full-time) and a part-time team on standby. As we move from one project to the next, different skills are transferred or a range of skills are taught. Today we have people from our once standby team, now working as supervisors in our core team.

ACHIEVEMENTS

* Premier’s Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards, First Runner Up - 2014
* SA Premier Business Awards (Proudly South African Enterprise Award) - 2013
* CSI Champion of the Year (SMME) , 1St Runner Up - 2011
* Mompreneur Competition (Most Social Conscious Business) - 2009

THE FUTURE

As our business expands, we will be able to take on more and more partner enterprises and create more jobs. We have to create more jobs, give our children a better education, and facilitate the empowerment of local manufacturing in a sustainable way. One can achieve any dream with hard work, passion and believing in oneself, but the biggest award in life is not the money that you make; rather it is the journey you take to become successful. As Anton Rupert said: “The more you give away, the more you will receive.” Let essay GIFTS be an example of a business that was started with little cash and has to date worked on contracts with some of the top brands in the world.

Our hope and vision for essay GIFTS is that it will become a significant example of job creation in the South African gifting industry.

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