Iwuku – a new model to help South African artisans sell online

A South African Shopping Site Where Artisans and Community Meet This is the first such model in the region, enabling people to show and sell their goods without needing a salesperson

The Nairobi Business Incubator recently came up with the idea of working with local artisans to produce a project with the modern South African online sales platform Ichkepod (Ishkap). This is the first such model in the region, enabling people to show and sell their goods without needing a salesperson.

This follows the success of another Ugandan project, Handwork KCC, which worked with trainers who instructed local artisans on web selling.

Where a network is vital

The success of each project would only be possible through a local network. Workshops and talks are a key part of the Ichkepod programme, as it gives artisans the opportunity to develop their skills and the information they need.

“In some places such as South Africa, people have a hard time selling their goods due to their comfort with the traditional method of selling – salespeople,” explains Victoria Morel, general manager of Ichkepod. “Craft vendors have a social bond with the community and people want to buy from people they know and trust. We have curated some of the best vendors to help market their products.”

Artisan Design Café at Handwork KCC, in Uganda. Photograph: Handwork KCC

Deciding who your next artisans will be is challenging. The studio will be hosted at Kimengo, a community centre in Broadmead, Durban. There is a call for artists to show off their wares, where products range from recycled bottles to furniture, from jewellery to goat products. Products can be seen at a promotional event on Friday 29 March from 7pm-10pm. In April the studio will visit Bloemfontein, and are looking to travel further afield.

Shop by shop, supplier by supplier

Each artist will be given a kit to put together in time for sales on Ichkepod; about 10 hours a week, using the company’s website, blogs and social media. Other vendors will get to show off their goods and services. The Shops by Vendor programme, is another bit of Iwuku, with a 30% discount offered to all customers. So far, Ichkepod has showcased more than 20 artists.

“For the buyers, it is much easier to choose products you are comfortable with – a fun place to show off some of your things and feel at home,” Morel explains. “You can find all the goods you need in a small space and people like the idea of seeing a shop-owner talk with you about what you are buying.”

A Masterclass on Shop By Vendor, which is being held in Broadmead, Durban. Photograph: Iwuku

South African entrepreneurship and manufacturing are thriving. Tim Pain “Experience, passion and innovation are at the heart of Iwuku South Africa – knowing what your consumers want, how to deliver on that and having the right team in place to deliver it is what makes a successful new business.

“Iwuku runs several South African trials, allowing participants to familiarise themselves with a New York designer, a New Zealand clothing and footwear designer and an Austrian clothing and accessories brand. Each New York, New Zealand and Austrian goods brings a unique flavour to the South African market and provides inspiration for those designing and selling products with local ingenuity and creativity.”

A werf of products in the front shop.

Iwuku runs a number of South African sales tests – a unique example of an accelerator for South African talent in its own right, says Morel. The team also runs exhibitions at the Sandton Business Hub in Johannesburg, bringing in leading industry players to give talks on topics such as marketing, design and sustainability.

How to get involved

There are many ways to learn how to start up your own Iwuku South Africa – they are currently looking for vendors. “The team may be able to help you design your own workshop,” says Morel. “There is also a tutorial series each week at the Sandton Business Hub, where we put together a 30-minute roundtable to share things we have learnt with people who would like to have that session.

“Our workshop sessions are held every week for a minimum of two hours, so there is plenty of opportunity to develop your skills. We can also help you find a retailer on our platform if you are looking to set up your own shop.”

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