Interview: Dale from Made in the Cape Market

This month we've interviewed Dale, who is both a trader and the organiser of the Made in the Cape Market in Cavendish, Claremont. She sells her own natural skincare brand, Milk & Honey, at the market that she started four years ago as she's found it to be an excellent platform to promote the range.

Hover over the photos to find out more and read the captions.

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How did you get to the point of starting your own market four years ago?

After exhibiting at other events and interacting with numerous artisans and creative people, I recognised that we all had a similar need – that of a regular environment in which to sell our products. This coincided with the growing environmental awareness and the conscious switch from purchasing mass produced goods to individually handmade items. From my previous career in the clothing industry (I was a fashion designer for 15 years), where we carefully observed trends, including visiting all the major shopping malls across the USA, Canada and United Kingdom, it was clear that an upmarket retail environment, such as Cavendish Square, was the perfect location to hold an artisan goods market.

With consumers being "time poor" it made perfect sense to provide them with everything under one roof – the convenience of international retail brands, together with the satisfaction of finding a beautifully handmade, local décor piece or gift.

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Was there a lot of red tape involved in starting up your market?

Yes. In accordance with our contract with our venue, various criteria had to be met, e.g. specialised insurance, public liability cover etc.

Since you don't sell food at the market, was it fairly easy to get everything you needed to go ahead and set a date or were there other challenges involved specific to selling artisan goods?

Selling artisan goods thankfully does not involve all the red tape of selling food items, however there were other challenges to overcome. Ascertaining whether an item is locally made is not always easy, when certain of the components may come from afar.

We have slowly weeded out items made with imported components and we encourage the use of up-cycled components and products which benefit our environment. Many of our up-cycled items are so stylish and chic that it is difficult to see their humble origins.

Can you tell us a bit more about the launch of the first market?

Stress !! That is the largest memory of our launch. Getting the right product, a balanced mix of product, all our branded goods, transport and logistics, marketing and advertising and mostly the cash flow meant that I took an enormous risk and personally "put my money where my mouth was".

We were "on probation" with our venue and I stood to lose all the cash invested if the event did not succeed. Thankfully, it was a huge success. The feedback received from customers was truly heart-warming.

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Which values are important to your market?

Our criteria include socially responsible design and sustainability. We actively encourage the use of recycled and upcycled components in product design. We encourage entrepreneurship, right across the social spectrum. We are especially proud of our exhibitors who have developed their businesses to a point of being able to offer much more than employment. Providing employment is gratifying, but providing an opportunity for an employee to learn new skills and talents is even more gratifying.

Many of our assistants and apprentices have developed and enhanced their skills dramatically. Certain aspects of product creation have been outsourced into small communities, where local women are enabled to create an income, whilst part producing an item (or component thereof) in their own homes.

In numerous instances, the Made in the Cape Market has provided a "hand up" as opposed to a "hand out".

Can you tell us a bit more about how the market has been a great space for certain vendors or people to be "discovered" and how it can be used as a "springboard to success"?

There have been many success stories, large orders from corporate companies, hotel groups etc. Perhaps the greatest discovery, was of our Barbara Kasasa of Oh Voila. Barbara was discovered by a representative of the Vital Voices programme. This is an international women entrepreneur program, initiated by Hilary Clinton. After undergoing a rigorous selection process, Barbara was selected to be one of only 90 women, worldwide, to participate in the Vital Voices entrepreneur program in Kenya. Needless to say, Barbara excelled in the program.

Barbara's business, Oh Voila, continues to grow and make us proud. Barbara, as a single mother of 2 charming young teenage men, has empowered other women, many of whom are also single mothers, living in very difficult conditions in Cape Town's poorest areas. Besides creating employment, Barbara has given these women a sense of pride and accomplishment.

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Which forms of advertising your market have you found to be particularly effective?

Words I heard at an advertising conference many years ago, have imprinted on my brain. The speaker said, "We know that half of all advertising works. We just don’t know which half."

With that in mind, we tried a widespread approach initially, which included conventional print advertising, flyers, social media, radio comment and blog posts. We have since trimmed back on some of the more traditional advertising and focussed more on social media marketing.

How would you define your exhibitors?

They come from all walks of life and all backgrounds. Some are emerging designers, some have given up the rat race to follow their dreams and fulfill a passion. We have a clothing designer who travelled internationally, a PA who worked for Richard Branson, a surgeon, a librarian, and many artists. Their reasons for embarking on this path are many and varied, but we all share the love of individually handmade items.

Do you have any advice to share with others who are wanting to start up their own markets in South Africa?

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Here's a note to you, the customer, from Dale:

Imagine for a moment a scenario where you have to derive all your income from a product that you have conceptualised and produced, by hand (has to be commercially desirable item). Next, you would need to determine the best way to produce this product without assistance or financial backing; try to imagine the difficulties and pitfalls between concept stage and making that vital sale...

We will not bore you any further with the hurdles that entrepreneurs face on a daily basis, but the next time you purchase a handmade item, we hope that you will appreciate the passion, dedication, expensive failed attempts, hundreds of long, late hours, and the love, that went into its creation.

Don't miss out on the next Made in the Cape Market that will take place on 2 October 2015.