Jamie reflects on her NGO Management Internship with Monkeybiz

Jamie reflects on her NGO Management 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 degree in Human Services, with a minor in global social entrepreneurship and a specialization in American Sign Language. Her school partnered with TSiBA Business School, so last year she’d already spent one month in Cape Town. Together with other students, she consulted with local entrepreneurs in townships. They helped get their business to the next level, and walk away with concrete business skills. That’s when she saw the positive effects social enterprises and nonprofits have on the South African community. She fell in love with Cape Town and knew she wanted to come back to work for an NGO. The NGO management internship with Monkeybiz was the perfect opportunity for her!

I worked with other organizations back home, but nonprofits in South Africa seem to work in a different way. People here are not afraid to admit there are certain problems, accept it, and try to tackle them. There are so many initiatives that get involved with the communities – asking them what they need and then try to find a solution. Monkeybiz does just that. They discuss with the artists what they need, and involve them in making certain decisions.

FB_IMG_1494442557149   NGO Management Internship - Jamie

Diversity of the NGO Management Internship

Initially, I was unsure of the internship, because it had a focus on communications. I had no experience with that 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. Because we are a small team, I basically work with everybody. I get to wear different ‘hats’ which makes it more fun, and it’s not like other internships. I started with social media – writing up stories of the artists. Also, I 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, color schemes, and prices. Based on that story, the customer decides on what he wants to order. Once I became familiar with the whole sales and marketing process, I took over dispatch, data entry, and improving things from an outsider’s perspective. 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. 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 at 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 organize everything and make the store look nice for customers. Then, I go upstairs for dispatch. When customers come in I tell them about Monkeybiz and what we are all about, but a moment later I’ll be 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 connected with OD, the finance manager, to discuss orders, payments that need to be made, couriers we work with, etc. Sometimes I also assist Gemma to pick colors to hand out to the beaders and discuss the upcoming orders. I also 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 leader they can report to. These team leaders bring the art pieces to us on the 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 until lunch to set up the table to put out all art pieces. 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, which is why it’s often convenient to have someone around that speaks Isixhosa.

Luckily I have Mathapelo – or ‘Mataps’ in short. She is one of Monkeybiz’s founders and the project’s community coordinator. She’s 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 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.

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My first day at Monkeybiz

I enjoy being in the stop, although I thought I wouldn’t like retail. But I feel it’s different here. You notice the difference as soon as you tell a customer in the shop about the background of beading and Monkeybiz. The fact that I am American also adds to the conversation. People often ask me where I am from and why I am here. I get to tell them what Monkeybiz is all about, rather than ‘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 about their stories. I try to build a relationship with them, so they are interested and follow us on social media.

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