Nine years ago, a small business was set up in the Klein Karoo town of Prince Albert, with five employees in an old ostrich hatchery. This month the AVOOVA business (now exporting its beautiful handmade ostrich eggshell products to 15 countries) celebrated the official opening of its newly renovated, 800m² factory across the road. (Thursday 20 February). Funding from the Jobs Fund, through the auspices of the Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI), made the new premises possible. This has not only enabled AVOOVA to improve the working conditions of its staff and boost productivity, but to create 20 permanent new jobs. The business is now far better equipped to develop the export potential of its products. CEO of AVOOVA, Tom Goddard, believes that there could be a further 20-30 positions available over the next one to two years as a result of the funding injection. The factory has sufficient spare capacity to double the numbers employed to in excess of 100 over the next few years. The Jobs Fund investment has, in addition, gone into creating an AVOOVA shop in the former factory. This has the potential to be a huge attraction for the growing number of tourists visiting Prince Albert, adding to the number of direct and indirect jobs. “We made a conscious decision to remain faithful to the origins of our business by keeping our production in the town where it all started,” said Goddard. “This has presented many challenges both logistically and in terms of short term skills shortages – but on the other hand there are many longer term advantages to such a strategy. “Staff retention is excellent, which is very important when developing and refining specific skills. Because we operate in a small local community, over the years we have been able to establish a relationship with our staff that is founded on mutual trust and dependency. With every year that passes this bond will strengthen and will enable us to grow and improve not just in terms of quality and . . .
Two-time winner Matthys Beukes will return to defend his 80km Extreme mountain bike crown at The Herald VW Cycle Tour in Addo on Saturday. Beukes - who will also vie for the overall Ultimate Quest title by riding the 106km Classic on Sunday - said he was looking forward to one of his favourite events on the racing calendar. "It's a great weekend away. The mountain bike route is interesting and the road race is always fun!" The George-based rider said he was in good form despite struggling with mechanicals in his first major race of the season, the African Continental Mountain Bike Championships, in Cape Town last weekend. "In the end, my sixth place was quite a good result, considering I chased back from 14th at the halfway stage. "It wasn't easy to keep going but I really hate giving up and not giving it 100 per cent, so at least I know I gave it my best shot in the end." For the Addo race, Beukes will be up against the likes of newly crowned U23 African cross-country champion James Reid, multiple national title holder Kevin Evans and former SA road champ Darren Lill. Beukes said Reid would certainly be the man to watch. "Obviously, James has good form at the moment. He was third last year and the route makes for tactical racing, which he's really good at." Unfortunately for Beukes, he will be without the services of Scott Factory Racing team-mate Philip Buys, who claimed the elite continental title last Saturday. Buys finished in the runner-up spot behind Beukes in Addo last year. The pair would go on to earn the coveted African jersey at the Cape Epic two months later. "It would have made it a lot easier to have him here and we could have taken turns at hurting the others," said Beukes. "But there are so many events on the calendar that it's impossible to do all of them, so we have to choose. Phil has different goals than me and it works out better for him to have a solid training block now and peak a bit later." Personally . . .
The National Arts Festival has announced the launch of a new partnership with the European Union (EU), which will see over R6m invested in the City of Grahamstown’s ‘Creative City’ project over the next two years. The partnership, through which the EU will support the Festival’s “Makana Arts Academy” project, was announced in Grahamstown this evening. “We’ve seen from the Rhodes University Economic Impact Study also released today that the Festival makes a contribution of around R360m to the GDP of the Eastern Cape. That’s just from the staging of an annual, 11-day event. Long-term projects such as the one with the EU will enable us to affect the sector and the broader economy positively over a longer period of time, and will result in a more sustained drive to create jobs in the cultural sector,” Festival CEO Tony Lankester said. The Makana Arts Academy is a “virtual institution” which will institute training programmes across the city in various arts disciplines, creating opportunities for Grahamstown residents to become active participants in the national arts economy. It will also establish a shared space in Grahamstown for artists, and which will act as a public creativity hub. “We know that there are hundreds of talented people living in this City who have never been given the opportunity to explore their full potential. This programme will help identify, nurture and mentor this talent to the point where they are active in the sector and deriving an income from the arts,” Lankester said. “In putting the grant proposal together we drew in partners such as ASSITEJ South Africa (the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People) and Kuns Onbeperk – the company behind the annual ABSA Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn, who face many challenges similar to the ones we face in Grahamstown,” Lankester said. The Makana Arts Academy is part of a broader “Creative City” project, spearheaded by the National Arts Festival . . .