‘Human triumph’ nets Exporter of the Year award for Plumstead wheelchair-maker
SHONAQUIP, a Plumstead company that makes wheelchairs for children with special needs in underdeveloped regions, came out tops this week, winning the Exporter of the Year trophy and the R50 000 cash prize.
The win at the 25th ECIC/Cape Chamber of Commerce Exporter of the Year competition, held at the Kenilworth Race Course on Thursday, also marked the first time a woman – company head Shona McDonald – has won the title.
McDonald drew her inspiration for her business from her severely disabled second daughter, for whom she wanted a full life. So she designed equipment, together with the biomedical engineering department at UCT, especially for the child’s needs.
Soon afterwards she learnt of other parents with the same needs for specialised chairs, and established the business as a social enterprise in 1992.
“I want people to understand that with the right wheelchair, there are opportunities,” McDonald said. “Children can be valued members of our communities.”
Shonaquip employs 50 to 60 people, half of whom have disabilities. Its products are exported to Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.
McDonald hopes the award will give Shonaquip a platform to raise awareness of the need to address inequality, enhance human capability, and empower communities.
“To be included in this competition is an opportunity to recognise disabilities as a broader social issue,” she said.
Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, said: “In our 25 years of running this competition we have had some amazing winners, but few stories of human triumph like this one.”
The second prize, of R20 000, a corporate identity make-over, and the Gerald Wolman trophy for the best exporter to Africa, went to Folio Online.
Folio Online is a leading language service provider in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This evening honoured our champions of commerce,” Myburgh said of the 12 finalists. “Their successes are our successes.”
WOMAN POWER: Shona McDonald of Shonaquip is the first woman to win the Exporter of the Year trophy, presented by the ECIC/Cape Chamber of Commerce.