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A Seed Feeding Hope

A seed of thought is now changing the lives of hundreds of rural Swazi women, giving them hope and purpose. The seed has blossomed into Gone Rural—a sustainable development company in Africa’s only remaining absolute monarchy.

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Gone Rural was registered in 1992 but founded many years before that by a British nurse—the late Jenny Thorne. Thorne and her husband owned a farm in Swaziland that now houses the House on Fire, Malandela’s restaurant, an internet café and the Gone Rural workshop and store.

“Jenny’s vision is that she really wanted to give independence and a voice to Swazi women,” says Philippa Thorne, her daughter-in-law.

Thorne has a background in design and came to Gone Rural 11 years ago as a volunteer after hearing about it from a friend. She is now the company’s creative director.

Gone Rural is a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation and makes eco-friendly handicraft made from lutindzi—a brittle mountain grass harvested in January. The grass is colored in wood burners for up to 30 minutes using eco-certified dyes from Germany. The raw materials are then sorted and weighed onsite according to orders. Gone Rural employs over 760 workers from the rural areas, a big jump from 30 in 1992. There are 23 permanent staff members in the workshop.

The women get the raw materials delivered to them and they decide how much work they can take on. Once the orders are finished, they are picked up and brought to the workshop. This eliminates any traveling issues the women may have. Baskets can take anywhere from two to 10 days to make and if any new products are developed, training workshops are held with selected group members, who go on to train the rest of the group.

Many of the women came to Gone Rural via neighbors and relatives. The minimum working age is 16 years. Forty-eight per cent of the wholesale price goes to the women and the prices are revised every year.

“Our women are their own businesswomen and we’re basically partners with them,” says Thorne.

There is a challenge of managing growth—the company wants to help as many women as it can but it needs to keep in mind the current workers. Having 760 artisans means nothing when the orders just aren’t large enough to spread. Trying to keep everyone busy, while increasing numbers, will lead to the supply of an expensive product exceeding demand. After all, this is a business and not a charity. Someone will, however, still visit the women in the rural areas, irrespective of whether there is an order for them to fill, to reassure them that they are not forgotten.

Gone Rural’s products are sold in Britain and Canada and for the last five years it has partnered with Woolworths, in South Africa, to create food and nut Christmas hampers. Two retail shops in Swaziland and some South African curio shops also carry the company’s range of homewares, which were launched in 2011.

Even against the chaotic backdrop of the farm’s preparation for the Bushfire Festival in May, the stock room was full as orders were being sorted and ladies were brought in to finish off an urgent order—a black chandelier made from grass and T-shirt offcuts.

Gone Rural is competing against international products that are made by companies with more resources and lower prices. Ensuring that they have the highest quality possible is imperative. There are three check points in quality control. Each product first needs to pass a production co-ordinator in the rural areas. It then gets checked in the workshop with a final inspection taking place before orders are packed. The women get paid less for work that isn’t up to standard.

Visiting designers and partners such as Swazi Ceramics ensures that fresh ideas are continuously generated. The company has also gone as far using recycled plastic and T-shirt offcuts from a factory in Matsapa, Swaziland.

Swaziland is one of 15 landlocked countries on the continent; it is Southern Africa’s poorest country and has the world’s highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. With an estimated population of 1.3 million, the unemployment rate is estimated at 40%. With more than half the population living below the poverty line, the women of Gone Rural are doing their part in meeting the basic needs of their families and have moved away from the large dependence on subsistence agriculture.

In 1996, Gone Rural founded the non-profit organization Gone Rural boMake. This is an extension of the community services Jenny Thorne carried out when she was alive. The organization receives a minimum of 20% of Gone Rural’s profits as well as the merchandizing income from the annual Bushfire Festival that was featured in last month’s issue of FORBES AFRICA.

The NGO’s focus on education awards 360 bursaries each year to the artisans’ children and assists preschool teachers in early childhood development. It has health initiatives focusing on the prevention, treatment and support of HIV/AIDS, as well as on reproductive health and chronic disease.

Three thousand people benefit from the Gone Rural boMake Mobile Wellness Clinic. The World Bank estimated that 65% of Swaziland’s rural population had access to running water in 2010. BoMake has, to date, secured the drilling and fixing of 10 boreholes and the installation of a solar water pump system for the Makhekhe community—80km north of Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane.

So what would the woman who started it all say now? It’s clear that her vision has become that of many. An amazing and inspirational woman, according to her son Jiggs Thorne: “It’s a powerful thought what Mom would say about something she started manifesting into something so great,” he says.

Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Entrepreneurs

Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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