Cape Town - Relate bracelets encourage people to “wear the change you want to see”, just by wearing one small beaded bracelet – or 10. Relate recently celebrated the milestone of selling more than a million bracelets, supporting many underprivileged people and local causes with the money from all sales.
The non-profit organisation, founded in 2008, decided to take the next step in its business and will be launching its online store on December 6.
A recent launch aimed to get Relate “trending” in South Africa and, of course, selling even more bracelets.
Co-founder Lauren Gillis still can’t believe she’s managed to get so many people involved in a project that includes social entrepreneurship, charity and beads.
The idea came to her when she had bracelets made for a 50th birthday party and realised the power of connections when everyone kept them on and continued to wear them long after the party was over.
She says she started thinking: “What can we do with this tool?”
She read that Nandos was about to turn 21 and approached it with the idea of making a bracelet for each of its 6 000 employees, the proceeds of which would go to feeding underprivileged children.
Nandos said yes and when it started getting into malaria work, Relate got in touch with United Against Malaria.
It took off from there, with United Against Malaria remaining one of its biggest causes to date.
Gillis started with the goal of wanting to sell one million bracelets and now she would like to get to the point where Relate sells a million bracelets a year.
“Can you imagine the change we can make,” she said.
Online you can buy lifestyle-inspired Signature Stacks (a stack is 10 bracelets) in white, metallic, black and white, Brights, black and bohemian, with the option of adding a beneficiary cause of your choice.
Or you can buy a stack with a design for a specific cause like Reach for a Dream, The Shine Centre, United Against Malaria, The Rotary Water Project, The Amy Biehl Foundation, Ikamva Labantu, The Jane Goodall Institute or the Endangered Wildlife Trust for cheetahs or for rhinos.
The core message is to “stack and share”, encouraging people to buy a stack to wear themselves or to share the individual bracelets with friends or family.
“You can stack to make a statement or you can share to inspire others,” said Gabriela Simpson, marketing assistant for Relate.
Relate is also working on having a “design-a-bracelet” option on the site to choose your own colours and accent beads for weddings, birthdays or any other special events.
You can only buy stacks on the website (R350 a set) because, being non-profit, the company would make a loss from selling individually.
Individual bracelets can only be bought for R35 at select retailers like Clicks, YDE, Sorbet, Woolworths and CNA, for their chosen beneficiary.
Internationally, it sells at preppy clothing retailer Jack Wills in the UK for United Against Malaria and at bohemian fashion shops Free People in the US for several causes.
Each bracelet is hand-beaded by grandmothers in Cape Town, and finished and packed by otherwise unemployed young adults seeking opportunities to grow.
The money from each bracelet is divided into thirds – a third to cost and materials, a third to the chosen cause and a third to training opportunities and earnings for the bracelet-makers.
Simpson said the training was not in bracelet-making, but rather in courses that they had chosen for their own personal career goals – such as computing, social work , languages, nursing, driving, sewing and sports.
“The earnings are to make some money while they do that,” she added.
Nonyikima Mene was born on August 6, 1932. Her name means earthquake after the quake in the Eastern Cape on the day she was born. She now lives in Crossroads.
She has 10 grandchildren.
She started beading for Relate in 2010 and said the money helped a lot when her government money ran out.
She had also made many friends through her beading and would go on “until I die’. - Weekend Argus