09 Aug Success Meets Hardwork: Julie Nixon of Swaziland Fair Trade (SWIFT)
Julie Nixon’s passion has always been income for women. So, when she moved to Swaziland and realized that talented artisans (predominantly women) rural areas lacked market research and access, she decided to create an avenue for such talents to be recognized and generate income. Julie believes that when women leave home to find income in Eswatini, that leads to family breakdowns which in turn negatively impacts the entire community. In order to prevent such negativity and also fulfil her passion, she started the Swaziland Fair Trade (SWIFT) which has enabled artisans in Swaziland to reach the global markets
Please tell us about your business.
Swaziland Fair Trade (SWIFT) was started to capacitate entrepreneurs within Eswatini to enable them to reach global markets. Under the 10 Principles of Fair Trade, like minded social business leaders came together to formulate a plan to train, mentor, coach, and ultimately, link micro enterprises with the market. Over the past six years we have facilitated the creation of 517 sustainable new jobs, an average sales increase for members of 49% and an average increase in take home wages of 47% for producers and employees.
Facebook: Swaziland Fairtrade
What made you decide to embark on rendering these services?
In Eswatini there are thousands of talented artisans engaged in handcraft production, mainly in the rural areas and predominately female. Their talents and skills are undeniable but they lacked market research and market access. Our economy is also quite small and we wanted to find a way to create income opportunities for artisans and grow our local economy. We also know that urbanisation will destroy our way of life, our community spirit, so we wanted to generate income in the rural areas. Income for women is the passion of my life, especially for African women who are my inspiration and have taught me more about life and how to live it, than anyone. Women have to leave home to find income in Eswatini, that leads to family breakdowns which in turn negatively impacts the entire community. We also know that women spend their income making life better for others with education of their children their primary spend so putting money into the most deserving of hands, is my goal.
What influenced your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I don’t fit into the box that society wants to put all of us in, I never have, I ask too many questions.
To what do you attribute your success?
Sheer hard work and determination along with an enormous dose of faith.
Lack of capital is often cited as one of the most challenging parts of being an African entrepreneur. How were you able to fund your business?
I don’t believe that, we have helped launch 36 new brands over the years none of whom had access to capital, the grew organically, step by step, finding the market gap and filling it with quality products and excellence in service. Apple started with zero capital and on receiving their first order they spoke to their local credit provider and asked for a 30-day payment terms so they could buy parts to fulfill the order. After paying the micro loan, they used the balance of the payment to fund their next computer build, the rest is history.
What piece of advice would you give to other Africans just starting out?
Know your market, fill the gap, give excellence in service, be a social entrepreneur, have a goal higher than just profits and always, always have a strategic plan, not a business plan, that you look at once a week.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made? How did you recover?
Not following a procedure because I had trust in a customer. While gut instinct is important, it is even more important to follow a procedure that you have in place.