Gildah Tshukutswane always wanted to buy greeting cards in her mother tongue and this inspired her to start a business that sells colourful birthday, wedding, Christmas and thank you cards with messages in South Africa’s indigenous languages.(Image: Pick n Pay) Through Gildah Tshukutswane’s business, African Greetings, she wants to promote South Africa’s diversity of languages and make people conscious of other cultures.(Image: Wilma den Hartigh)MEDIA CONTACTS• Gildah Tshukutswane African Greetings+27 82 924 6254Wilma den HartighSouth African entrepreneur Gildah Tshukutswane has turned her dream of creating greeting cards in African languages into a successful business.Her start-up African Greetings sells a range of colourful birthday, wedding, Christmas and thank you cards with messages in all 11 of South Africa’s official indigenous languages. Each card is illustrated with a photograph or traditional symbol that is specific to the language of the card, such as a Zulu shield, Basotho hat, an African musical instrument and even South African bushveld scenes.Tshukutswane first got the idea to make greeting cards that are distinctly South African in 2005, when she realised that retailers don’t sell any greeting cards that contain messages in African languages.“I always thought it would be exciting to buy a card in my mother tongue,” says Tshukutswane. “I could send my mother a mother’s day card in Tswana and it would put a smile on her face.”Tshukutswane immediately saw a gap in the market, but without a background in graphic design or the greeting cards industry, she first wanted to make sure that her business idea was a viable one.“I read a report about the greeting cards industry that said in 2009 in South Africa the industry was worth US$50 million (R449-million), and the value projected for 2014 is $80 million (R717-million),” she says.Tshuktswane knew she had a good idea, and that greeting cards still have a place in modern society where communication using mobile phones, email, Twitter and Facebook is becoming the norm.“As brilliant as technology is, we still need that human touch. We need to connect in person,” she says.Cutting, pasting and coming up with ideasTshuktswane, who works as an IT and management consultant, bought a craft book on how to make greeting cards. She spent hours over weekends and in the evenings cutting, pasting, folding and experimenting with different types of cardboard, images, fonts, colours and designs.She spoke to people fluent in different languages about the types of messages and images that would interest them.As a sample exercise, she designed and printed 4 000 cards in English, Sotho, Zulu and Xhosa to present to retailers – but getting them interested in her business idea wasn’t easy.“Almost all of them turned us down. They told me there are too many cards in the store,” she says.Although she was disappointed, she didn’t give up.“I felt there was a need for the product and I didn’t want to let go of the idea.”She attended a small business seminar hosted by supermarket giant Pick n Pay to find out how small suppliers can access the retail market. Here she had an opportunity to tell Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, the retailer’s ethics and transformation director, about her idea.“Pick n Pay was prepared to try it out and placed a selection of cards in two key stores,” she says. Today the cards are sold in 21 stores across Gauteng, and the business has expanded to include online sales, too.“We are very grateful to Pick n Pay for the opportunity. We didn’t want hand-outs, we just wanted an opportunity to sell what we have,” she says.Preserving Africa’s languagesWith the cards Tshuktswane wants to promote South Africa’s diversity of languages.“We need to celebrate and preserve our indigenous languages,” she says. “With the cards we are making people conscious of other cultures.”Printing so many cards in multiple languages and themes is a logistical feat, and she works closely with designers and translators to ensure that each card is linguistically and culturally accurate.Distribution is also tricky as sales depend entirely on the geographical location of the store. Zulu cards, for example, sell better in Johannesburg than in Pretoria.This year she wants to print the English translation of the message on the back of each card.“This way the cards also serve an educational purpose to teach people about other languages,” says Tshuktswane.Developing new talent, finding fresh designsShe has big dreams for her business; they involve expanding into other markets on the continent and building a stronger online presence.Through crowd sourcing techniques she wants to create a network of graphic designers who are willing to submit their card designs. Then, people can vote for their favourite designs and the winning entries will be printed. Designers will be paid a percentage of both online and printed card sales.“I also want to expand the business because then I can create employment,” she explains. “The dream is quite big.”Tshuktswane feels that the development of entrepreneurs is important for South Africa’s economic growth, but small business owners need access to markets. “Retailers should be willing to give opportunities to small businesses, as this is the only way to grow the economy.”
The organisation’s two biggest entrepreneurial programmes, bakeries and poultry farming are aimed at combatting unemployment while helping to improve food security. (Images: Siyabonga Africa, via Facebook)South Africa is constantly making efforts to push back and reduce the effects of poverty and unemployment. That they are still such critical concerns highlights the need for change and the need for South Africans to take action to help the growth and development of underprivileged residents.With this in mind Siyabonga Africa, a non-profit organisation in Brakpan, Gauteng, has been working to lessen the effects of poverty on the underprivileged and arm them with the skills and resources they need to improve their standing.The organisation began in the 1980s with a feeding scheme established by Ronald and Yvonne Dell on the East Rand, with the help of community leaders in the area. It included the distribution of donated clothing and help in restoring families that had been torn apart by poverty.Their efforts continued to gather momentum and in 2004 the Siyabonga Africa development centre was established in hopes of addressing the shortage of skills and jobs in the surrounding community.“We look for people who put their hands up instead of their hands out, and we aim to nurture an entrepreneur’s spirit that does have an impact for years to come,” says Nathan Dell, the chairman of Siyabonga Africa.In 2004 the Siyabonga Africa development centre was established in hopes of addressing the shortage of skills and jobs.PROGRAMMESFor more than a decade the organisation has focused the bulk of its efforts on entrepreneurship programmes through which it works to impart knowledge that is key to starting and running sustainable businesses.The organisation’s two biggest entrepreneurial programmes are bakeries and poultry farming. They look to combat unemployment while helping to improve food security. The bakery programme has led to the establishment of more than 300 bakeries across the country and almost 2 000 jobs.“Our poultry farming programme is a very exciting one because it’s one of the small to medium enterprises with the highest growth potential in South Africa,” says Dell. “We offer a business management course that is an introduction to business fundamentals which are specific to poultry farming.”Siyabonga Africa also has the largest food bank and distribution centre in the province, he says, which feeds thousands of people each month. In addition, the organisation has a temporary housing project aimed at helping individuals and families in a transition phase or in between places.“We also have an advice desk where we help people get all their legal documents in order and help them get into the mainstream economy.”The group gives unskilled people a launch pad or platform from which they can build themselves up and go on to become self-sufficient members of society. In turn, these people are then in a position to go on and help others who are in similar situations fulfil their potential.PLAY YOUR PARTAre you playing your part to help improve the lives of the people around you or the environment? Do you know of anyone who has gone out of their way to help improve South Africa and its people?If so, submit your story or video to our website and let us know what you are doing to improve the country for all.