There’s a thrumming vibrancy to new lifestyle group, Beetroot Inc – a happy energy in the stores that comes from the staff, the customers, and their love for the items on sale here. There’s also an honesty to the pieces, all crafted with pride and care. It’s somehow not surprising to discover that the business grew from one woman’s passion to help fellow South Africans.
Elize van der Berg believes job creation is essential to make this country work. “A job you create for one person has positive spin-offs for at least five others,” she says. “That is why this project started off with job creation in mind. However, to sustain jobs, you also have to make profit so, as we went along, we developed a sustainable economic model. The one cannot work without the other.”
“We’ve also developed a set of core beliefs that define our code of conduct: do the job, do it well, enjoy it, respect others and flourish. In terms of practical decision-making, we all work at continuous improvement and at putting the interests of the company and its customers first. That is the ultimate filter for practical decision-making. On a very basic level, it is these shared beliefs and attitudes that unite us as ‘Beetrooters’,” says Elize.
Meet some of the Beetrooters:
When Elize heard that Matlala had been retrenched from his previous workplace, she bought four sewing machines and a few metres of fabric and Matlala and his wife Anna (who had no previous experience of sewing) became Beetroot’s first employees.
“When I started, I knew nothing about sewing or sewing machines and could not even work a computer. Those days are long gone,” says Matlala. “I now supervise eight seamstresses and maintain their sewing machines. I have also become a skilled fabric cutter, which I really enjoy. Whether it is patchwork or fabric for aprons, placemats or gift bags, cutting is now my passion. Actually, I love everything about Beetroot, especially seeing people improving their skill levels. My wife, Anna, is an excellent example. After completing a basic seamstress course, she kept working at her skills. She is now an accomplished seamstress who can hold her own with the best of them.”
*Lucas and Anna Matlala have four kids and live in Hammanskraal north of Pretoria.
Langatshe worked as a seamstress at a company that produced duvets until it closed down. In 2014, Matlala, her current supervisor, approached her to join Beetroot Inc.
“At my previous employer, I just worked on duvets and blankets. Since I joined Beetroot Inc, I have learned how to make all sorts of new things like bags, patchwork, cushions, placemats and aprons. My favourite product to work on is placemats. Once I get the fabric, I can really put the placemats together fast and they look the part once I am done. I like it here. The people are great, and we work well together.”
*Lizzey Langatshe is a single mother of four and lives in Hammanskraal north of Pretoria.
Elsie worked as a supervisor of a cleaning team at a retirement village in Pretoria. When the contract ended, she became unemployed. Her diligence had made such an impression that she was brought to the attention of Elize. Phutiagae was subsequently employed as a shop assistant.
“I’ve learnt so much since I joined Beetroot Inc! I can now do merchandising and store management, which I knew nothing about before. And I’ve discovered a passion for sales that I never knew I had. It’s easy to sell something you love, and I love Beetroot Inc. couches – so do my customers. The designs and patchwork are unique. You won’t find anything like it in other shops! I am very happy at Beetroot. We help each other and work well as a team.”
* Elsie Phutiagae is a single mother of two and lives in Pretoria.