Online store a big boost for EC talent

When East London-born Lisa Jones returned to the city 10 years after relocating to London, she was captivated by the level of talent and innovation of the city’s artists and creatives and recently launched an online store called The Wild Coast Trading Company.

EASTERN CAPE SHOWCASE: Recently returned expat Lisa Jones has launched an online store for Eastern Cape artists, crafters and natural beauty products called The Wild Coast Trading Company. After living in London for 10 years, Jones was amazed at the level of local innovation although many creatives had little interest or inspiration for marketing Picture: SUPPLIED

“I saw exceptional local talent and so many who are very good at making products, but don’t have the skills to sell them further afield or don’t have the time to market and deal with sales enquiries, which is why I do it all for them,” said Jones, 39.

“I knew South Africa would catch up to the e-commerce boom and noticed South Africans were shopping a lot online and so I thought I could get them out there as well. Eastern Cape artists and crafters do well seasonally over Christmas because out-of-towners like their products, but East Londoners don’t have the money to keep artists running for the rest of the year and so marketing needs to go beyond East London.”

Jones has spent the past 10 months sourcing, curating and photographing art, ceramics, fine art, recycled paper jewellery, home decor, wire and metal craft and South African playing cards.

Well-known artists like ceramicist John Steele, King William’s Town wire and metal artist Leo Ndhlovu, who is also known as The Wireman, woodcut artist Jeff Rankin, Tembeka Metele of Iza Crafts, Percy mNguni who makes silver surfers mobiles from recycled materials, and natural Casa Castile soaps and lotions by Nicky and Andries Steytler, have products and prices featured on www.thewildcoasttradingcompany.

Jones has also captured the stories behind the artists in the “About the Artist” page on the website.

“There are currently 176 products with thousands of bespoke variations on the site,” she said. Featured creatives get more bang for their buck on the Wild Coast Trading Company Facebook page.

“All artists receive a high percentage of their sales and we work on fair trade principles.

“Customers can submit their own patterns and colours for certain items because we have a lot of bespoke options. I then act as the warehouse. When orders are made, I collect them from the artists, package them and courier them to anywhere in South Africa,” said Jones, who returned from the National Arts Festival armed with “a waiting list” of talent to be added to her collection.

A proud member of the Local Yokel project, she is determined to confine herself to using only Eastern Cape skills and professionals.

“Any graphic designers, admin assistants or social media experts will all be local as it is important for me to keep and bring money here.” —