Teaching sustainable business practices to Swazi artisan women
Phephile Hlophe was looking for an employment for more than five years. Her degree in Psychology did not help her to secure a job. However, things started changing in 2015 when she attended a training in business and marketing organised by Crossroads partner the Swaziland Fair Trade (SWIFT). Through the training she learned techniques in packaging and branding that she’s applying to an incipient jam making business that she started together with other two friends. “I learnt a lot in the training, things like writing a business plan and the importance of packaging and branding; before I was taking any container that came to my way. My product today is totally different than the one I started with.”
Phephile has now a full-time job that she created for herself and that she loves. She’s selling her jam in a shop set up by SWIFT for start-up members. Although, her business is still at the initial stage, she has made significant progress that makes her proud, “I participated in a competition against other SWIFT members thinking I had no chance to win and I was really surprised when I won the fourth position”, she said smiling. With the prize she won, she bought a blender and uniforms for the business.
“I am so happy and grateful to SWIFT, they made me to be positive about the things I am doing, they made me to keep the hope that I had lost for a long time.”
According to Ayala Ayanda Sigudla, the SWIFT’s business development manager, “we do not teach our members [professional] skills but we help them with the business side of things; (…) we want to create market opportunities for them.” Apart from teaching business skills, SWIFT builds their members’ connections and ensures they participate in events where to market their products and get known by the public.
SWIFT and Crossroads help rural artisan women to develop higher quality products that will increase their income. The partnership includes a capacity building component by training the trainers. “Phephile was experiencing some issues with the product expiring requirements so we connected her to other [SWIFT] members that went through the same process”, Ayala Ayanda said.
SWIFT organises four trainings a year which includes practical work and assignments to ensure members apply the knowledge acquired. They also carry out follow ups after the training to ensure businesses sustainability. SWIFT has currently 77 members in different levels depending on how advanced their businesses are. Those in level 3 sell thousands of products every year.
“Phephile is dreaming big and this is where we want to focus on,” Ayala added. “My short time goal is finding a name for my company and make it known and (…) my long-term goal is having [the jam] in all shops in Swaziland. In two years time, I’d like to be [selling] in a prominent place in town,” Phephile said.
According to Tina Mbachu, a Crossroads International organizational development advisor volunteer with SWIFT and Gone Rural, an organization member of SWIFT and Crossroads local partner, “the main challenge in the implementation of the project is the lack of funds that makes it difficult to further engage with the artisans in terms of micro enterprise development, but the capacity building provided by Crossroads International through the volunteer program (…) supports their skill development.” She added that “the Southern African landscape is interesting because there are numerous social enterprises that operate within the luxury craft and artisan market. Providing the necessary support to these organisations [like SWIFT and Gone Rural] benefits the artisans”.
“I am so happy and grateful to SWIFT, they made me to be positive about the things I am doing, they made me to keep the hope that I had lost for a long time,” Phephile concludes.