Jamie reflects on her Non Profit Internship with Monkeybiz

Jamie reflects on her Non Profit Internship with Monkeybiz

Written by: Khusela Ngubelanga

Photo credits: Khusela Ngubelanga

From social media and marketing to shop management and order dispatch

Jamie is almost finished with her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Services with a minor in global social entrepreneurship and specialization in American Sign Language. Her program partnered with TSiBA business school, so last year she spend one month in Cape Town already. Together with other students she consulted with local entrepreneurs in townships to get their businesses to the next level and walk away with some concrete business skills. That’s when she saw the positive effects social enterprises and non profits have on the South African community, fell in love with Cape Town and just knew she wanted to come back to work for an NGO. So the NGO Management Internship with Monkeybiz was a perfect opportunity for her.

Back home I worked with some other organizations but I feel nonprofits in South Africa work in a different way. In South Africa people are not afraid to admit there are certain problems, accept it and try to tackle them. And there are so many initiatives that really get involved with the communities, asking them what they need and then try to find a solution. Monkeybiz does just that – by talking and asking the artists what they need and by involving them in certain decisions.

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Diversity of the NGO Management Internship

I was unsure of the internship initially because it had a focus on communications and I hadn’t had experience with it yet. But Monkeybiz made it easy for me. It’s a small company and I like the mindset of the people I work with, so it feels like a family. Everybody is very welcoming and helpful. And because we are a small team I basically work with everybody, get to wear different hats which makes it more fun and it’s not like any other internships. I started with social media writing up stories of the artists and went to Khayelitsha to interview a bunch of them. Kathy, my supervisor, taught me everything about sales and marketing, how to merchandise the store, the whole order process and creating stories. When a customer wants to order we create a ‘story’ with a picture of the art pieces, different sizes, colour schemes and prices.  And based on that story the customer makes his decision on what he wants to order. Once I became familiar with the whole sales and marketing proces I took over dispatch, data entry, and helping to improve things with an outside eye. And when Kathy went on leave for two weeks I had learned enough to take over her position as Sales and Marketing director for those weeks. I am now able to assist a lot more in the more specific tasks around sales. Having all these different roles is great and I do things many other interns don’t get the chance to as I’m really involved in making certain business decisions.

If you’d like diversity and challenge in your internship, read more about the NGO Management Internship**

My days with Monkeybiz are never the same. Besides dispatch I help our store manager Sakhi. I fill in at the store when he is not there. I usually arrive a bit earlier, so I organise things and make the store look nice for customers before going upstairs to do dispatch. When customers come in I tell them about Monkeybiz and what we are all about, but a moment later I’m busy with the orders and talking to clients. Cashier does all the quality checks and boxing so I work with him when we prepare the orders. And a moment later I connect with OD, the finance manager, to discuss things about orders, payments that need to be made (or received), couriers we work with, etc. Sometimes I also assist Gemma to pick colours to hand out to the beaders and discuss the upcoming orders or work with Kate, the general manager, on the special customized orders or anything else that needs to be done at that moment. I just help out, do what needs to be done for my NGO Management Internship and I love doing it.

Meeting the artists on market days

Every month Monkeybiz organizes market days. The artists bead from home and they have a team leaders they report to. The team leaders are then the ones that bring the art pieces to us on these market days. These days can be stressful, as there are a lot of people. Every group leader is in charge of seven to ten beaders so it usually takes up till lunch to set up the table to put out all art pieces that are being handed in. I register everything on a spreadsheet in Excel as well as everything we ordered from them. And if there is something wrong with the beading we tell them and then it’s sometimes convenient to have someone around that speaks Isixhosa. Luckily I have Mathapelo (or ‘Mataps’ in short). She is one of the founders of Monkeybiz and the projects community coordinator, a vital link between the Monkeybiz studio and the artists in the townships. She lives in Khayelitsha and often works from a container office there as it’s more convenient for the artists to go there than to travel to town. The artists also speak to her if they need extra beads or something else. And since she speaks the local language (Isixhosa) it’s helpful for me when I need to deal with difficult or challenging situations on for example the market days.

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My first day at Monkeybiz

I really like being in the shop and thought I wouldn’t like retail. But I feel it’s different here because you notice the difference as soon you tell a customer in the shop about the background of beading and Monkeybiz. Also the fact that I am American adds to the conversation as people often ask me where I am from and why am I here. I get to tell them what Monkeybiz is all about and it’s not like ‘the store told me to say so just because I am an intern’. It’s based on my own personal experience which is much more valuable. I also like to hear tourists telling me their stories and try to build a relationship with them so they will follow us on social media.

** The NGO Management Internship with Monkeybiz is now called Non Profit internship