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South AfricaTshwane, South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Life’s Beads project promotes a variety of sustainable livelihoods among the poor in communities across South Africa. The Life’s Beads project is designed to contribute to the production potential in these groups within the craft sector.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Tragically, the history of colonization and Apartheid have alienated crucial elements of production and marginalized African people from our own material culture. This has led to a situation where crafters routinely compromise the integrity and value of their work through the purchase of raw materials and the use of tools that are not locally sourced. Currently many products that express our African cultural identity are made from materials that have been produced overseas. This reliance upon imported raw materials and supplies continues to undermine the economic empowerment of local crafters, as they miss-out on the income generated from all parts of the value chain.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

A key aspect of our approach is to intervene in the craft value chain by ensuring the indigenization and local sourcing of materials for craft as well as locating and developing a sustainable market for crafted products. There is a double-helix of value in this project because crafts produce and express our cultural values but also crucially rely upon a value chain for the supply of products. By indigenizing the entire value chain, the livelihoods of local suppliers are sustained and the cultural value of the craft produced is also enhanced because all the elements of its production are authentically African. We currently work with ninety women living at the base of the economic pyramid, organized in a variety of working groups in five South African Provinces. Each craft group receives support and training in design, bead making, jewellery production, and business skills, including purchasing, stock control, quality assurance, marketing, and entrepreneurship.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Life’s Beads Project works with groups of unemployed female heads of households living in rural, peri-urban and urban communities. These women have been selected because they are able to contribute to the craft value chain. Particular groups of crafters were identified as suppliers of raw, locally sourced materials and make beads in KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces. These supplier groups receive support and equipment for bead making and entrepreneurship. Other groups have been selected from South African township communities and are involved in designing and producing a variety of beaded jewellery products.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The craft and beads market is full of cheap raw products made in China. There are many market stalls and shops selling beaded craft. The Life's Beads Project is different in that it intervenes across the entire value-chain and this allows the project to find buyers and promote suppliers that support the material culture of South Africa.

Founding Story

Luana Malan is a social entrepreneur who loves making beaded jewellery. Employed to establish a development approach to craft at Siyabhabha, Luana hit on the idea of encouraging small crafters to make jewellery and sell them. Douglas Racionzer is an Ashoka fellow specializing in non-formal markets and value chains. The two of us spent a week in May 2012 in discussions and planning and came up with this value chain approach of Life's Beads.
About You
The Siyabhabha Trust
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

The Siyabhabha Trust

Organization Country

, GT, Tshwane

Country where this project is creating social impact
Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to supply chains.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

The Life’s Beads project has successfully raised the funds for its implementation through the National Lottery Fund in South Africa by focussing on poor women crafters and their work in the material culture of South Africa. Life’s Bead’s has also raised funds and a supportive market for its products through using an innovative crowd-funding approach. The success that life’s beads has achieved in capturing an entire value-chain from the sourcing of raw materials to the customers’ purchase and use of the end product vindicates the effectiveness of applying this hybrid value chain approach to craft.
To guarantee the success of the project, the Siyabhabha Trust plays a very active role in creating a value chain that ensures each group within the value chain can; access markets for their products; access information about opportunities and trends in the crafts sector.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

We plan to to have over 100 project groups in craft directly supporting the livelihoods of some 2000 rural women living at the base of the pyramid. the indirect impact means that the livelihoods of these women's household will be improved thus affecting some 10 000 people. The products enhance the lives of the consumers of these products because they have cutlural and spiritual significance to them. We are targetting some 50 000 consumers who will buy these products over the next 36 months.

The model we use also involves investors through our crowd funding model in which we expect to reach some 50 000 small peer investors.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Poor marketing might lead to a decrease in peer investors and sales. To ameliorate against this risk we have designed the crowd funding approach in which investors receive products fvor theior investment. This turns investors into customers.

Managing the value chain and ensuring orders and supplies and customers are managed efficiently is a big barrier. We hope to win the SAP system so that we can implement it into our value chain.

There are other risks but most of them have been dealt with using usual business planning approaches.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Start the first three small groups of jewellery makers

Task 2

Secure investors and orders for products

Task 3

negotiate supply contracts from bead makers

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Start the first 6 small groups of jewellery makers

Task 2

Establish a crowd funding platform within the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference that assists small groups

Task 3

Widen the variety and range of craft products through this approach

Tell us about your partnerships

We are partners with The Oukasie Development Trust (now hectyorex), witth the Ctaholic Archdiocese of Pretoria, with Caritas Southern Africa and with many small repositories who sell beaded religious products.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We really need the SAP system to enhance our ordering, supply and customer relations in this project as it grows.