AOW connects with Fran Stewart of The Cape Craft + Design Institute NPC (CCDI), a leading sector and enterprise development agency in South Africa with a mission to develop capable people and build responsible, sustainable, and profitable creative enterprises trading within local and international markets. The CCDI supports the development of start-ups as well as established and exporting enterprises operating in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas, operating in craft, design, light manufacturing, and related sectors where creativity and design can commercialize innovation. CCDI’s services help businesses develop the right product for the right market using appropriate business and production systems. CCDI links entrepreneurs into ever-expanding national and international networks of market opportunities, putting them on a growth and profitability path.
The CCDI serves the needs of over 3800 small creative businesses—addressing the very specific community of creative artists and designers who run these SMME’s; 60% of which are women owned and managed, and 35% of which are run by youth entrepreneurs.
How has the design scene in Cape Town shifted over the years?
Recent years have seen the design scene grow in the city, with the appreciation of design expanding to more than just the design aesthetic. The economic potential of design has been realized and we now see a vibrant and diverse design sector emerging. The provincial Design Strategy and World Design Capital status 2014 have helped to raise awareness, as have other initiatives such as the East City precinct, The Watershed at the V&A Waterfront, the establishment of Workshop 17, various co-working spaces and design hubs around the city, as well as the rise of artisanal markets across the province.
Why do you think Cape Town has turned into such a hub for design and innovation?
Cape Town is a major tourist destination. Provincial government had the foresight 16 years ago to support the establishment of the CCDI in order to try formalize the craft and design sector and work to improve quality and diversity of product. Later the provincial Design Strategy, of which the CCDI is the implementer, and World Design Capital fed into this ecosystem. Given the support structures in Cape Town, there seems to have been a far bigger growth of design-led business here.
What are the main challenges your NGO faces? Lessons learned?
Funding is one of our major challenges as we have historically been supported by the various tiers of government. This funding is in great demand and priority sectors are shifting. In the current economic climate it is challenging to leverage any funding. The sector is fairly fragmented especially across the various provinces of South Africa. The CCDI has taken the step to broaden its mandate to service the whole of South Africa. This is not without its own challenges but it critical for the development of a cohesive sector. We are currently looking at ways to strengthen input to government around the sector on a strategic level.
One of the major lessons we have learnt over the years is that one cannot force a creative person to be something they are not inherently—we are not going to make exporters of someone who is very happy subsisting off their craft. People need to have the passion and drive to succeed. We are a very people-centered organization and understand that people don’t necessarily have a linear approach to business. We offer a range of opportunities and people take these up when they feel ready for them.
Where do most of the designers you work with sell their goods? Primarily locally in Cape Town or abroad?
Given that we work with such a diverse range of makers, sales opportunities include everything from small groups within communities to a multitude of local craft markets, bigger national consumers, as well as trade events. Many businesses sell from their own studios or have permanent spaces at places like the Watershed where they sell directly to the public. There are a growing number of businesses selling into retail nationally. There are an ever increasing number of businesses playing in the export space and the CCDI is supporting this through a joint initiative with the Dutch government agency CBI.
Where do you see the craft/ design/ handmade scene shifting in the years to come? What has surprised you most working within this field?
We are hoping to see the sector become more and more cohesive and able to really make its mark in the global design field—we see this starting to happen already and it’s very exciting. We are hoping to support more and more businesses nationally, therefore evening out the current skew towards the Western Cape. I am constantly surprised by the incredible talent that surrounds us; every day I get to see something new and, as the CCDI, the constant reward for us is to watch businesses learn and grow. It’s amazing to see the resilience and determination of small businesses making their mark in the sector.
What makes the CCDI unique and stand apart?
We are a sector-focused, people-centered organization with a strong track record of outstanding service delivery to our members. We are a market-driven organization which means that all Business Development workshops, which include the ability to prototype or refine product in our incredibly resourced product support space, and our Market Development program, focus on preparing businesses to be able to engage in trade. We support a demographically diverse set of makers working with many different materials making a very wide range of products. Businesses range from subsistence through to export ready. The CCDI has developed the first search and connect portal www.peek.org.za—a visual library of craft and Design in South Africa, where buyers can connect directly with the makers; in essence a matchmaking system for the sector which is being marketed far and wide.
For more info visit: http://ccdi.org.za/