Spring has sprung and there is a buzz in the air….

…and it’s not just the bees humming about all the gorgeous jasmine that has suddenly come into bloom or even an extended Brahmari pranayama session. No, there is a buzz around my little yoga studio in Stellenbosch that is getting louder and louder, in the most exciting manner possible! Let me explain…

I’ve been conspicuously absent from my blogging over the last while, and it’s because I’ve had the incredible fortune and privilege to become involved in a non-profit called TRADE-MARK (www.trade-mark.co.za) that a former colleague from my WWF days (World Wide Fund for Nature, not the wrestling crew) – Josh had the idea a number of years back and has recently got some funding to set up a website and get things really moving forward, and we are currently in the process of waiting to hear from DG Murray Trust as to whether a proposal for funding that we lodged with them, will come through. It’s an agonising wait, especially because it is going to determine whether or not I will be getting paid a salary! I will be the first paid member of staff and so it’s a really big deal to all of us. More about TRADE-MARK in a bit…

Anyway, I’ve committed a set number of hours a week to Josh and TRADE-MARK, and what with that, the usual time pressures that come with having two small children and also trying to keep up with my regular yoga classes that I teach in Stellenbosch, there’s not been much time left over for blogging. I love every one of my three ‘jobs’ (as mentioned above) but I really have been feeling increasingly that something needs to give. I wasn’t quite sure how or when or what it would look like, but I did know that I wanted to keep up with all three of them – a real juggling act, and one in which I didn’t want to drop any of the balls. So I started putting it out there (as the cliche goes) – the fact that I was very open to any form of help, support, helping to share the commitments or to take a bit of pressure off.

And wow, did the Universe listen! Literally, in the last few days, things have been falling into place in the most wonderful way possible. I can’t go into too much detail now as I’m still finalising things, but there are going to be some very exciting developments coming to Yoga With Nicci in the next while. I will keep you all posted – watch this space!

TRADE-MARK

Just a bit more about this phenomenal non-profit, as promised: TRADE-MARK is a non-profit organisation (registered as a Trust) that connects the best tradespeople – tilers, pavers, painters, carpenters – in the townships in the Helderberg basin with those who require their services. We have a rigorous selection process and a performance monitoring system that ensures both accountability and the highest quality service.

The idea was conceived by Joshua Cox in 2007.  Simon, a friend from the township of Diepsloot (an expert tiler/paver) was struggling to secure regular work. By providing Simon with business cards and a written reference, he was suddenly able to secure contracts of up to R30 000. It became clear that with added credibility and a few marketing resources, high-quality tradesmen from the townships were able to secure significantly more business.
There are many skilled tradespeople, just like Simon, living in the townships in South Africa. Marketing opportunities for these individuals are basically non-existent because of the lack of resources. Most of these tradespeople are sub-contracted to do work, intermittently. Others advertise their services on cardboard placards, or compete with numerous other tradespeople on the roadside for casual work. Some tradesmen, against all odds, have managed to secure jobs directly with customers and have established their own businesses, sub-contracting and finding their own work through word of mouth, handing out flyers, or advertising on Gumtree.
We hand-pick the best of these tradesmen: individuals with initiative and drive, who communicate well, and already have experience in dealing with customers but are not able to market themselves sufficiently to secure ongoing work.
Our vision is a South Africa in which people’s quality of life is determined more by hard work, diligence and integrity than the economic situation they are born into, that these qualities are recognised and rewarded and not masked by people’s preconceptions, that members of our society lead by example and play an active role in bettering this country, and that the gap between the rich and poor is continually being narrowed.
Our mission is to handpick highly skilled and diligent tradesmen (painters, pavers, tillers and carpenters) who live in townships around Somerset West, invest in them as leaders and role models in their communities (through additional skills training, create marketing opportunities for them to grow their individual businesses, and to encourage South Africans to become proactive in improving our country by offering them attractive choices to spend their money in the communities most in need.
Check out the website http://www.trade-mark.co.za to see how easy and straightforward it is to post a job. Just a few clicks and you’re there, and you will then be contacted by a skilled, vetted tradesman who will give you a free quote. Once the price is agreed, there is a simple contract to be signed by both parties, and after the job is done, you will be able to give feedback which we will share with the tradesman in question. Our tradesmen are top-notch guys who communicate well, run their own ‘businesses’ and who know that their reputati0n in what is going to take them forward in life.
It’s a brilliant concept, especially in this day and age where everyone is complaining about the lack of employment in South Africa, but it seems that not very much is being done about it. I have met some of the guys already, and look forward to meeting them all in time, and they are inspirational in terms of how they have risen about their circumstances and are achieving such success. This is not by any stretch of the imagination a bleeding heart charity, trying to give handouts – we are a middle man to help these entrepreneurs market themselves a bit better and to just get a little bit of a boost. We actively dis-incentivise them to become reliant on us to keep providing them with jobs – to avoid us being solely reliant on donor funding and also to empower the tradesmen, we charge them a 10% fee of whatever they quote for a job, but this is only for the first job – anything they get off the back of that first job is all theirs. Such is the calibre of our guys that we have had them insisting on giving us the 10% even for jobs that they got off the back of subsequent jobs (for example, Johannes from Sir Lowry’s Pass Village who did such a great job of painting a house that the guy’s neighbour asked him to do his own- Johannes was so appreciative of our initial lead that he insisted we take the 10%. We had to argue hard but we did it and he kept the full fee!)
We have got through the first two steps of the application process, and hopefully it’s just a matter of time before we get the good news that we’ve got the funding and we can really run with this. I am absolutely confident that it’s going to happen, because the way that things have been working out with my yoga studio just seem to be clearing the way for me to continue doing something that I love so much (teaching yoga in beautiful Stellenbosch) whilst also being able to really add value to TRADE-MARK, and still having the flexibility to be present and engaged with my little ones. Even as I write that, I can’t believe how beautifully things are lining up. Eternally grateful.
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