Gifts with an esSAy difference

16 November 2007

Looking for a corporate gift with a South African difference? esSAy Gifts offers an alternative to mainstream mass-produced promotional items, drawing its products from and reinvesting a chunk of its profits in local, rural-based artists and crafters.

esSAy Gifts was founded in October 2004 by social entrepreneur Rial Visagie, whose vision was to create a company that could deliver a world-class product and at the same time achieve the long-term, sustainable upliftment of disadvantaged South Africans.

Visagie travelled over 8 000 kilometres in his quest to find South African crafters and designers that manufacture quality, innovative quality products.

“We aim to develop and source top quality products which showcase the best of South African design and manufacturing capabilities by drawing on the country’s diverse cultural expressions and the richness of its peoples’ many talents,” says Visagie.

esSAy Gifts’ distinctive products are handmade by people scattered throughout South Africa for whom the manufacturing of these products is often their only source of income.

The company is structured in such a way that 15% its profits are reinvested in developing its suppliers. The relationships thus formed with its suppliers allows the company to offer a unique product range.

This was recognised by the City of Johannesburg, which commissioned esSAy Gifts to produce promotional items for the Fifa World Cup handover ceremony in Germany in 2006.

esSAy, together with a community glass-making project, developed and created 2 500 wire soccer figurines as well as two 2-metre football figurines, bringing a financial injection of R170 000 to a small farming community.

Lawrance Legetla, the artist who made the 2-metre soccermen, said: “It was supposed to be difficult to make the big soccermen as they are taller than me and even taller than some players in Germany, but because I love soccer it wasn’t that hard.”

At the same ceremony, leather-bound wooden journals, developed by esSAy Gifts together with another small South African company, were also presented with the challenge to “Journal your journey to 2010”.

“It is by sustaining and developing more partnerships similar to this one where the social legacy of 2010 will became a reality for all South Africans, even in small rural communities, and it just reeinforces how important it is to buy products manufactured in South Africa,” Visagie said.

esSAy Gifts has recently taken on a black economic empowerment (BEE) partner in Amavulandlela (Pty) Ltd, whose “experience in the fields of finance, retail, enterprise development and business strategy … means that the company will be able to accelerate its growth and start to realise its goal of bringing sustainable development and social upliftment to as many South Africans as it can.”

SAinfo reporter

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