One thing about me? I love a bag. It’s no secret that I’ve always had a pretty sizeable collection, wherever I’ve lived. I am also the target market for tote bags, I will not elaborate further on this. Recently, a friend of mine shared a small family business on Instagram with me, a mother-daughter team making totes, scrunchies and pouches. I was sold, literally, and have given these as several gifts now. This year, I’ve been very intentional with my time, my writing and using this blog to shine some light on small businesses run by people of colour. Thank you for the really kind responses to the previous post, where I spoke to the founder of Alternative Aesthetics, Carla Peake.
This time, I spoke to Charissa Beukes, one half of The Community, about starting this business, highlights during a trying time and why they live up to their namesake.
How did The Community begin and what prompted you and your mom to begin this small business?
We started The Community a year ago when we decided to create a source of hope for us, to help us get through the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and as a creative outlet. After losing many close family members, it was difficult to get back up again but The Community was our light at the end of the tunnel.
After wanting to tap into my creative energy for many years, I finally sat down with my mom’s sewing machine and we created tote bags to brighten up others’ days and to show others that tote bags are the way to go, instead of plastic bags when shopping or one-use gift bags when attending parties.
I always hated how much money I used to spend at certain fast fashion outlets, not because of the price, but because of the quality.
I worked with my mom to create and build what we have, which is why quality is very important to us as a brand. We always want to deliver unique pieces that are handmade with love.Charissa Beukes
All in all, many things led to us starting this business, but it was the best decision we have made. We are really blessed to be able to grow in the way we have and with each other, as a mom and daughter team trying to make others happy with our creations.
Your stock sells out really quickly, have you seen a demand for reusable items grow since starting?
Our stock typically sells out quickly mainly because we believe in small batch production. We try our best to limit waste, whether stock waste or textile waste (throwing away offcuts, for example). We produce in small batches, meaning making limited quantities and restocks are solely dependent on if the fabric supplier continues to sell it. However, we definitely have seen an increase in demand. I would like to think that our business and many others have raised awareness for the use and benefits of using reusable items, like our tote bags, scrunchies and pouches. I think this is the way the world should start shifting to, one where we no longer use one-use items, and start using less plastic where possible.
If nothing else, the ongoing pandemic has taught us that community is more important than ever. What are some of the most memorable moments since starting your business?
We started this business a year ago, in February 2021. The response has truly been so amazing, even in the darkest of times, or when we wouldn’t get any orders for weeks. We have received so much love and support from people we don’t even know.
The growing sense of community really warmed our hearts because this is why we named ourselves, The Community, because we love getting to know people and building relationships.Charissa Beukes
Standing at the Dorp Street Sunday Market and others throughout 2021 was a definitely a big highlight for us. We met so many of our customers and we interacted with regulars, passers-by, other small business owners etc. It was a really cool experience, so we hope to be back soon once business starts picking up again. The biggest highlight I think, was getting to stock some of our product at Retro Club & Co
Honestly, it’s been a blessing just receiving orders, gaining a sense of community with other small business owners. Being able to have this business has changed our lives, even if its not on a a majorly big scale to some.
Finally, how can followers support you online and offline? How do they get in touch to order and where are your bags stocked?
Any and all support is welcome! We appreciate it all: whether you simply like our posts online or come walk by our market stall. We mainly operate via our Instagram page @itsthecommunity_ or you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We inform people online when we attend markets, but hopefully from March onwards, we’ll start standing at markets again.
You can also find our products in Stellenbosch, at Folk Collective which is in Folk Tattoo and also at Retro Club & Co in Muizenberg.
We hope to expand even further and have many more stockists and successful market days and online orders!
I hope you found this helpful!