Bead­ing for so­cial change

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE - BY LAMEEZ OMARJEE

Inspired by Lance Armstrong’s LIVE­STRONG bracelets, which raise can­cer aware­ness, Lau­ren Gil­lis wanted to cre­ate hand­made bracelets that would “change peo­ple’s lives”.

Gil­lis had been work­ing on crafted gifts for con­fer­ence pack­ages since 2004. In 2008 she woke up with “Nando’s!” scream­ing in her head. So at 2am that morn­ing she googled Nando’s and saw that the res­tau­rant was cel­e­brat­ing its 21st birth­day – she took it as a sign.

Gil­lis con­tacted for­mer Nando’s CEO Robert Brozin with the pro­posal to part­ner with Nando’s and sell hand­made bracelets that would raise money to feed or­phaned and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren. Brozin agreed and Gil­lis got an or­der to make 600 bracelets.

With the help of her do­mes­tic worker, Gil­lis found un­em­ployed el­derly women from town­ships who were will­ing to bead the bracelets. Dur­ing the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Nando’s got in­volved in work­ing against malaria, re­sult­ing in Re­late’s f irst bracelet. Soc­cer stars pro­moted the United Against Malaria cam­paign and to date, R8.5m has been raised in four and a half years.

“Those were the hum­ble begin­nings and we’ve gone f rom st rength to strength,” says Neil Robin­son, who joined Re­late Bracelets as its CEO last year.

Af­ter 23 years i n t he cor­po­rate sec­tor, Robin­son says he wanted to make a dif­fer­ence to other peo­ple’s lives and his own. He calls it his ver­sion of a mid-life cri­sis.

Cape Town- based Re­late st i l l col l ab­o­rates with cor po­rates l i ke Nando’s a nd c ha ri t i e s t o cr e ate aware­ness of im­por­tant causes. Bracelets are de­signed to match the brand DNA or the spe­cific cause, ex­plains Robin­son. Some brands and causes dif­fer, but all de­signs are in­tended to es­tab­lish a longterm iden­tity.

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