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March to July update, 2006.

The first week of March Hilde Marie Kvarenes and Nina Tanggaard returned to Queenstown, South Africa. After a couple of months apart it felt really good and exciting to once again meet the local UBUNTU participants. The excitement was mutual when both parties understood that they had been working actively at each their continents to make UBUNTU a sustainable and successful project. In South Africa the activity had primarily been the production of soap and getting new customers, while Hilde Marie and Nina had spent their time seeking financial support and marketing the project.

After the first couple of meetings it became clear that there were 3 main issues that needed to be focused on:

  1. Production facility/shop
  2. Improving the supply of raw material
  3. More customers and marketing

First of all we saw the need for new facilities where we could produce the soap, mainly because we wanted to maintain a good quality on the product we sell. In relations to this we also came up with the idea of finding a location where we could both produce and sell the UBUNTU-products. The search for such a location proved to be a very long and challenging process. We where soon to understand that renting facilities in Queenstown wasn’t going to be cheap, mainly because there are only four big real-estate agencies in the whole Queenstown region. After 5 weeks of hard work and effort we got lucky and about 1 year after the UBUNTU-project was designed, on the 8th of May, we had the grand opening of our incredibly great shop with a separate area for production. The new location is about 60m² (646 ft²), so there is enough space for sales and production as well as stocking the raw materials. In addition to soap one can now also buy towels, t-shirts and other UBUNTU-accessories in the store. On the opening day the local newspaper was present and the UBUNTU-crowed was glowing and eager to tell about their expectations to the running of the shop and how they now were able to continue their good work with and participation in children and youth projects.
The second rather important need was to get an overview of the different producers and suppliers of natural oils in South Africa. The main reason why we wanted to do this was because we wanted to find the best and most reasonably priced natural oil, and then consider if it was possible to reduce the sales price on the soap. This also turned out to be a very extensive and time-consuming job. But after numerous phone calls and after having put the old and some what rusty math knowledge to the test, we finally got and overview. Now our main supplier is situated in Cape Town, and despite the fact that the transportation of the raw materials takes 14 hours, this turned out to be the least expensive alternative.
Finally their was the need to establish contact with a bigger group of customers primarily in South Africa, but also in Scandinavia, therefore we contacted the “Chamber of Commerce” which is an association of businessmen dealing with finance and marketing. We also contacted Mark Adams who works as an advisor in a firm that supports newly established projects in the area. Through these new contacts and also other different relations, we have managed to achieve contact with other businesses and individuals that have been willing to assist and help us get a bigger group of customers. Today the soap is sold at our store at 2nd Owen Street in Queenstown, at Magers Pharmacy (the biggest pharmacy in Queenstown), at The Health Nut (newly established health store in Q.) and at Spectra. On top of that we are actively trying to get Bed & Breakfasts in the area to buy and use the soap. Besides this we have been doing a lot of marketing around our store which is located in the centre of Queenstown. Among other things we have put on a dance show, where participants in the children and youth projects preformed, both dancing and singing.

We also got help setting up a great business plan which will make it possible for us to apply for financial support from different South African founds. We hope this organisational description of the project will prove the seriousness of the project and show how much work that lies behind the UBUNTU-project. PASCaP has also written a letter of approval which establishes the soap as a quality product. Hopefully this will also make it easier for us to sell the soap to people who are devoted to natural and essential oils.

For us, the international coordinators, the last week of May was our final week in South Africa this time. Therefore we used the last couple of weeks to organize and make sure the conditions for running the project were best possible for the local UBUNTU participants. It is now over a year since the idea of the UBUNTU-project came to life. Through the process and the establishing of the project the responsibility and control has been more and more turned over to the local participants, where we as coordinators have become more of a facilitating organ, which is available at all times. Both Hilde Marie Kvarenes and Nina Tanggaard seek to achieve the financial means to return to Queenstown as soon as possible, in order to support the project and ensure the sustainability of it and also help improve the already on going positive side effects.

This summer the local UBUNTU-participants have been in charge of the project, and more or less left to themselves, but at the same time had weekly contact with their coordinators in Norway. Shipments of soap are being sent to Norway and Denmark where they are sold in stores and through private contacts. In Norway the soap is now sold at Elefant Apoteket (pharmacy in Kristiansand), at SunKost (Sørlandssenteret), at Prix (Lund) and in Charlies Bar (Kristiansand). And of course the surplus of the sales goes directly to the UBUNTU-project.

The latest news:
At this years Quart-festival in Kristiansand, Norway, the bartenders and security staff decided to donate 50% off their entire tip to the UBUNTU-project! This ended up at the great amount of kr. 12 300,-!! (USD 2000$). When the new manager of the festival, Helge Josland, heard about this great initiative he also wanted to support the project, and therefore he chose to double the amount! In other words; the Quart-festival 2006 donated kr. 24600,- to the UBUNTU-project! Fantastic!

You can read a article about this initiative from this link.

And finally the most resent good news is that on the 16th of August there will be arranged a great, big support concert in the cathedral in Kristiansand! And the following bands have agreed to perform for free this night: Helene Bøksle, NUD, Green Carnation, Radiojam, Inger Lise Stulien and Elmira (The Bjorvands). This night will also hold other surprises, so don’t miss it! All the income from the ticket sales will go directly to the UBUNTU-project.