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Corporate philanthropy to sustain microenterprises

Paying kindness forward can reap great rewards for everyone involved in the process as it perpetuates a cycle of positive behaviour. In most well-established businesses this type of behaviour occurs daily with associates sharing information and advice, making introductions to others in one’s network and mentoring of employees. 

However, the opposite is true for thousands of microenterprises currently operating in South Africa who don’t have access to this form of social capital. Considering our current unemployment crisis offering our expertise up as a company’s way of paying their success forward can be wonderfully impactful compared to simply donating money.

As many businesses look for charitable causes to make donations to, owner and founder of The Graphic Ballroom (GBR), Jason Forbes, suggests finding tangible and sustainable ways to make a difference to uplift small businesses who may lack the expertise or the funding to pay for the services you’re able to offer.  

The Graphic Ballroom are specialists in branding and packaging design and to celebrate 25 years since they first launched, they partnered with choc-chip cookie sensation, Mama Bongi, to help her redesign her packaging ahead of this past festive season.   

‘We are huge Mama Bongi fans and knew this was something we could help her with going into the festive season. The retail space is an overwhelming place for brands to be who have little to no budget for marketing and especially at Christmas time, when the legacy brands can throw millions of Rands into their campaigns. It’s not easy to stand out on the shelf,’ says Forbes.  

‘In conceptualising our design, we also wanted to make sure that our approach was sustainable and had longevity. Now Mama Bongi can adapt her packaging for other holidays or occasions, like Valentine’s Day or Easter. I think there is a lot more that the bigger more established businesses can do to support the microenterprises in our country, just by paying it forward.’

When Sibonginkosi Msipha known as Mama Bongi started working at Amazing Spaces, her chocolate chip cookies had clients running back for more. With the help of her mentor and employer, Julia Finnis-Bedford, Mpisha launched her own cookie range in 2018 and has not looked back since. Hailing from Bindura in Zimbabwe, Msipha, loves to cook. Her chocolate chip cookie range is also called Mama Bongi and is available in dozens of stores across the country, including the popular Wellness Warehouse chain in the Western Cape.

‘We were so humbled and honoured that Jason at GBR chose our brand to work with to celebrate their 25 years. We got the full treatment of a proper presentation, with lots of options carefully thought out and beautifully presented. What I love is that they considered the story of our brand in their design,’ says Julia Finnis-Bedford, owner and founder of Amazing Spaces.

To ensure her cookies stand out on the shelf and to give the bag a sense of purpose, the design team suggested using several colourful Shwe Shwe designs to add sparkle to the bag’s natural and rustic look and then incorporated a gift tag with a space to write a note and gift the bag to someone special.

Since launching the new design Mama Bongi has received a great response. ‘Our clients love it and we feel that it is easily recognisable so differentiates us from other brands. We love the Shwe Shwe as it shows our African roots and heritage. We are super proud of how lovely the bags look,’ comments Finnis-Bedford.

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