A Gift with Purchase promotion doesn’t always get it right. Very often you’re “gifted” a cheap, made-in-China plastic bag that starts to fall apart in the first month. So I was thrilled when I heard about Elizabeth Arden’s latest promotion where they’re not only giving customers something beautiful, but something that is actually making a difference in the South African community.
This year Elizabeth Arden has teamed up with Kate Senekal of Sparrow Society, who was named their Make a Visible Difference Community Hero last year. As a gift with your purchase, you’ll receive one of three locally made cosmetic bags that is gorgeous, and supports local skills development and industry.
Kate, who originally stems from Texas in the US, has had a passion for South Africa since she was a little kid. Later in her life she was inspired by the talents of the women in South African townships and wanted to find a way to empower and up-skill them, as well as providing them with a means to reach their potential. Sparrow Society creates ethically sourced, fashionable materials that people want to buy because they are stunning, not because they are supporting charity.
Through the organisation, Kate has provided employment and a constant revenue stream for women in underprivileged communities, allowing them to not only provide for their families but to also feel empowered and respected by doing what they love.
I caught up with Kate at a recent media event to chat a bit more about her own journey from Texas to South Africa, and what she sees for Sparrow Society going forward.
Why did you come to South Africa?
I’ve actually wanted to move here since I was nine. It started in ’94 when Nelson Mandela became president. I walked into our lounge where my dad was watching it all happening on the television and asked him what was going on. As he started telling me more about this history I remember thinking, “wow, stuff like this was actually still happening in the world.” And I thought to myself that I would love to see the transition.
Then over the next couple of years every time something would come up about South Africa it just hit home and I knew that this was where I was suppose to go. So I came here when I was twenty. I was studying reconciliation and South Africa and the TRC was one of my case studies, so I came over to further my research. And the moment the plane landed I knew that I was home. It was this weird feeling, I didn’t know anybody on the other side of the plane door but I just knew that this was where I was meant to be.
And how did you start Sparrow Society?
When I was doing my research I learned that so many women in South African townships already have sowing as a skill and have sowing machines, but there is nowhere to put it into practice and turn it into an income. I had a background in graphic design and I knew I could do something to bridge this gap. At first we started working in my garage one day a week, designing and making different things, and slowly but surely it started growing.
So what do you see happening in the future? Do you want to build Sparrow Society out as a business?
We are structured as a non-profit company and we run as a business. We don’t really like working off donations and we’re trying to move away from the charity aspect. There are a lot of skills within our business that we can build on. We also want to reinforce the idea that local production is possible and that we can create brilliant, competitive products at a good price.
Is everything made locally then?
Yes! The fabric is all made in South Africa, it is printed locally, even the lining is from here. We also screen print everything by hand. Only the zips are done in Swaziland.
What products do you sell apart from the bags and the pillows that I’ve seen?
We do tote bags and zip bags, as well as jewellery. Our focus is mainly on textiles. We want to focus on creating quality that has been locally produced.
How does it work?
Purchase two Elizabeth Arden products, one being a moisturiser, serum or foundation and you’ll receive a Sparrow Society makeup bag filled with a full-size Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant, Grand Entrance Mascara and 15ml Always Red Eau de Toilette. The promotion will run from 16 January – 5 February 2017 at Foschini, 16 February – 6 March 2017 at Truworth and 12 April – 3 May 2017 at Edgars and Red Square.