‘Hu­man tri­umph’ nets Ex­porter of the Year award for Plum­stead wheelchair-maker

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - AN­TOINETTE ISAMA

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.

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