A craft and design entrepreneur, the Jobs Fund (National Treasury) and the Cape Craft & Design Institute are together creating up to 50 new permanent jobs in the remote Karoo town of Prince Albert.
Nine years ago, a small business was set up in the Klein Karoo town of Prince Albert, with five employees in an old ostrich hatchery. This month the AVOOVA business (now exporting its beautiful handmade ostrich eggshell products to 15 countries) recently celebrated the official opening of its newly renovated, 800m² factory across the road.
Funding from the Jobs Fund, through the support of the Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI), made the new premises possible. This has not only enabled AVOOVA to improve the working conditions of its staff and boost productivity, but to create 20 permanent new jobs. The business is now far better equipped to develop the export potential of its products.
CEO of AVOOVA, Tom Goddard, believes that there could be a further 20-30 positions available over the next one to two years as a result of the funding injection. The factory has sufficient spare capacity to double the numbers employed to in excess of 100 over the next few years.
The Jobs Fund investment has, in addition, gone into creating an AVOOVA shop in the former factory. This has the potential to be a huge attraction for the growing number of tourists visiting Prince Albert, adding to the number of direct and indirect jobs.
“We made a conscious decision to remain faithful to the origins of our business by keeping our production in the town where it all started,” said Goddard. “This has presented many challenges both logistically and in terms of short term skills shortages – but on the other hand there are many longer term advantages to such a strategy.
“Staff retention is excellent, which is very important when developing and refining specific skills. Because we operate in a small local community, over the years we have been able to establish a relationship with our staff that is founded on mutual trust and dependency. With every year that passes this bond will strengthen and will enable us to grow and improve not just in terms of quality and productivity, but also in terms of the benefits to our employees, their families and the stability of the community as a whole.”
Guest of honour and the head of Jobs Fund Project Management Office, Najwah Allie-Edries, said, “I find it inspirational to see what is happening at the coalface. This project clearly demonstrates what can happen when the community, government and the private sector work together.”
“It has been a pleasure to work with the CCDI and to see their passion – the way they interact with people, provide the right support, and have excellent systems. They take monitoring and evaluation very seriously and are extremely responsive.”
The Mayor, Goliath Lottering, was accompanied by six of the seven local councillors. “This is the first time that there has been this type of initiative in Prince Albert,” he said. “We normally struggle to attract investors to our small town. Your contribution puts bread on the tables of the poor and marginalised of the community.”
Mariette Williams, CCDI Programmes Director, said, “I am inspired by the commitment to Prince Albert, to grow and support this community. We are building a South Africa we can be proud of.”
The Jobs Fund is a programme initiated by the Presidency in 2011 that provides grant funding on a matched basis to projects that will create new jobs, Williams adds.
The CCDI submitted a project proposal during 2011 in the first Enterprise Development funding window of the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund programme, which is implemented by the Development Bank of Southern Africa. The proposal made it through a rigorous evaluation and due diligence process and resulted in the CCDI leveraging an investment of R14,5m towards the creation of 451 jobs, in 44 craft and design businesses, over three years.
Paying tribute to the support from the Jobs Fund, Goddard concluded, “Almost all small businesses that survive the first few start-up years reach a tipping-point where they have the potential to accelerate growth and become much stronger, or they reach a glass ceiling beyond which they can climb no further. To break through that ceiling needs, amongst other things, luck, persistence and, in most cases, an injection of capital.
“We must now ensure that this timely intervention by the CCDI and the Jobs Fund will enable AVOOVA to gain some serious additional momentum. We are all very aware and appreciative of what this support has made possible but there is still much to be done and many challenges to address if the investment is to fulfil its job creation goals.”
The CCDI is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 2001 by the Western Cape government and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. One of the provincial government's leading Special Purpose Vehicles, it is a Institute that develops people to build profitable enterprises, with marketable products for global markets in an enabled environment.