One business dictionary defines entrepreneurship as “The capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture, along with any of its risks, in order to make a profit.” (businessdictionary.com)
In South Africa, as in many developing countries around the world, a lack of skills and employment opportunities are serious challenges to better socio-economic conditions for a large part of the population.
Entrepreneurship, especially as it relates to the development of small business ventures, is a critical component in addressing these challenges. Our government sees “the development of Small Businesses and Cooperatives as catalysts for economic growth and job creation.” [ see also https://www.thedti.gov.za/sme_development/docs/act.pdf]. I can truly say that my mother, Irma van Rooyen, personified this entrepreneurial spirit when she founded Kaross 28 years ago. She has built in all of us the willingness and capacity to develop Kaross, to take risks and grow our vision for the company and its people, and to work hard to establish a better life for everyone involved. Kaross started almost three decades ago with five embroiderers and Irma as designer, artist, marketer and administrator (besides being a mother of three young children and wife to a citrus farmer). The VaTsonga are traditionally very good at embroidery, but they lacked a means to derive economic value from their amazing African home decor items. Irma provided a vehicle for them through Kaross: she incorporated good design and sound business principles, and was unyielding in her insistence on excellent quality – values that have sustained and built Kaross all these years.
Kaross has grown to become a small company with a big heart: we only have about 22 full time employees at the studio, but we enable 1200 embroiderers to derive a good income from Kaross, that helps them to support their families and gives them hope for their children’s futures. Our model allows these embroiderers to create one-of-a-kind pieces of true African Art in the comfort of their own homes, in their own time and at their own pace, effectively enabling them to be in charge of their own incomes, whilst having time to raise their children, manage their households and in many instances, manage their own businesses on the side. We strongly believe that this model is key to growing successful small businesses across Southern Africa. Kaross is based in a rural, farming region of the Limpopo province, where the majority of employment is part time and dependent on harvesting seasons.
Another benefit of our model is that we provide work throughout the year, thus people do not have to migrate to larger economic centres to find work in the ‘off’ season. Kaross is a “for-profit” company: if we do not make a profit we cannot be a viable business, but we strive to put as much as possible of the profits back into our community. If we look at the 2015/2016 budget for small businesses, we come to realize that is is not just up to government to help grow SMME's and small businesses, but that we all have a moral obligation to help our felllow South Africans become more prosperous and independent.
The employment creation and upliftment aspects of Kaross’ mission remain our driving force and we are happy to say that they are key to all developmental and business decisions in Kaross. With the launch of our new online store we aim to further increase the footprint of our embroiderers' products and to help them grow their businesses even further.