Beading for social change
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.