A friend I went to school with has been a great source of encouragement and inspiration. I have seen how she has raised two beautiful children, and how she is constantly working to make South Africa a better place for the next generation. I have seen her raise difficult questions, work with others, and teach her children to be kind, considerate and loving towards others.
I saw her announce that she had started co-writing a book series named “Delightful Tales About Difficult Topics”, with the first book being “Willow Asks Why?”. I wanted to know more. This series of books is to be enjoyed by parents and their children together, and to show a way of speaking through difficult questions that kids may have – especially in all their honesty and innocence.
Your names: Kimberley Clow & Graham Geiger-Kirige
Business name: Delightful Tales About Difficult Topics
3 fun facts about you: Kim: * I am currently reading Brene Brown’s latest book, The Gifts Of Imperfection * Unashamedly obsessed with reality television. * In 2021; I am learning to speak Xhosa
Graham: * Life Motto: “Beards Before Razors” * Firm believer in tea bags being removed BEFORE milk is added. * Proud father of 8 house plants (I have read the book to them)
Tell me a little more about the book you have written: ‘Willow asks Why?’ is a story about the ever-curious Willow, who begins to question why there seems to be a different set of rules, for people of different races. Packed with light-hearted illustrations, the powerful message is that we should always question the world around us and learn to see the ‘invisible’ roles that privilege & structural racism play. Only then can we challenge them.
What age group is this aimed at: The book aims to spark conversations with kids of all ages, however if we had to give a specific age range, we’d say particularly kids between the ages of 2 and 4, as this is when they’re most vulnerable to societal stereotypes and prejudices.
What was the inspiration behind the book: Kim is a mother of two and has a diverse family. Naturally, she began searching for locally produced children’s books that would more accurately reflect the members of her own family. She managed to find a few but not nearly enough and decided to write her own story with a focus on promoting diversity & inclusion, in a South African context.
Graham is a lifelong family friend of Kim’s, a freelance Copywriter and part time woodwork teacher at the Little Warthogs Playschool – run by his wife, an early childhood development specialist. So when Kim pitched her idea of a children’s book series promoting diversity & inclusion, Graham swapped his power tools for a pen & paper.
Where can people purchase one from: You can order ‘Willow asks Why?’ on our website.
What is the price of the book: Our retail price is R120 and 15% of the profits of every book purchased will go to ARNSA – The Anti-Racism Organisation of South Africa. They work closely with the Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela Foundations among many others to ensure that organisations are equipped to deal with racism within communities. Jump on to their website to find out more about their various initiatives and collaborators.
Why is this book so special to you: Kim: It’s a daily reminder of the strength my children gave me to step out of my comfort zone; and write a story that I believe in. There is massive racial bias in South Africa; and I would like to play an active role in trying to change this.
Graham: Learning to navigate your way through the world can be tough, let alone when you’ve barely cut your first tooth! Working on this book was special because it has the potential to help kids ask critical questions, discuss difficult topics in an open way and hopefully make a confusing world, slightly less confusing.
Why do you think this is a conversation we should be having with kids: Kids may begin identifying with race as early as 6 months old; and may start generalising by 2, therefore it’s super important to have these conversations as early as possible, before any misconceptions become ingrained. If kids can learn to discuss these problems when they’re young, they have the power and time to help change it.
Quote you live by: Kim: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” Graham: “Reading is an exercise in empathy”
Anything else you want to add: ‘Willow asks Why?’ is the first book of a series, ‘Delightful Tales About Difficult Topics’. As the name suggests, the goal of each book will be to make it easier for parents to have open & honest conversations about complex topics, not covered enough within the children’s book genre. We have some ideas for future topics but no concrete decisions have been made, so watch this space!
I am so honoured to have been able to chat to amazing people like Kim and Graham, as well as Toys With Roots last year. We need to be aware of the way we speak to and about others, and we need to show our children the importance of acceptance, inclusion, and kindness.
This book is so needed in South Africa, and I could not be more proud of these wonderful people who have taken the step and making changes for our futures.
I have been LOVING experimenting with new makeup, and recently I saw a post from Marie on one of the Facebook groups I am part of, and I was instantly drawn to her charismatic personality as well as her gorgeous makeup that she has created. She has just launched a new eyeshadow palette, and it has given me all the feels – I can’t wait to get my hands on it (as well as everything else on her website!), and I am sure that you will feel the same when you see the beauty that is MlsBeauty!
Your name: Marie-Louise but I prefer Marie
Business name: Mlsbeauty (Marie-Louise’s Beauty lol), boring I know.
Tell me a little more about your business: I first started as a makeup artist about 7 years ago. I’ve always been inspired by American and British makeup artists and brands and always tried to import products from these countries. I saw the need to bring diversity in terms of makeup in SA and launched my cosmetics line 2 years ago.
How long have you been doing makeup for: About 7 years ago. I was looking for a simple eyebrow tutorial on YouTube and became hooked.
Why does makeup make you so happy: It’s a refuge for me. When I’m upset I grab a brush and just go with the flow. When things fall into place I’m suddenly in a good mood.
What pushed you to start your own makeup line: The need of diversity in the South African Beauty Market.
What is your personal favourite item from your range: Can I pick 2? Cause they are really good. The Black Magic Palette and the Matte Lipstick in Negra, it’s a warm chocolate brown, I mix it with different lipsticks from the range.
What have been your most popular items: The Matte lipsticks, so far. But there’s a growing interest for the Black Magic Palette. The Black Magic is pretty versatile in colours but is still a neutral palette. I didn’t want to create a palette full of brown shades only, we needed a palette that’s lively, magical but still wearable.
How much do you charge for makeup application: My makeup rates start from R550.
I see you do makeup lessons too – how can people book with you: People can contact me through emails, DM or WhatsApp. I’m working on a bookings section on my website.
How can people order items from you: I have all my items on my website, easy, fast and secure website.
What makes your makeup brand so different to others: Inclusivity in every sense of the word. I wanted to create a brand that caters to everyone and where everyone can identify themselves.
Quote you live by: Enhancing the Beauty that already exists. Because that’s the sole purpose of makeup.
Marie, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you! Your products are absolutely gorgeous, and so are you. I love that your products are inspired by Africa, for Africans.
Marie is also currently running a 15% discount on her Black Magic Palette when you use the code WOMEN, so it is under R250 for a really versatile, gorgeous eyeshadow palette. Please support this wonderful lady, and share her great products with all your friends.
I met Sarah when she bought one of our Rare Bears in an online auction, and I immediately clicked with her when she came through to collect the teddy. We sat outside and spoke for ages, and have stayed in contact ever since. Her heart is so pure, and she honestly does all she can to make the world a better, happier, and safer place. She volunteers her time at a local safe house, and helps many kiddies realise their emotions that they are battling through, as well as actually overcome any negativity that they have been carrying around unable to fully understand.
She very kindly sponsored one of the prizes for my current giveaway, and I really think her products should be in every home, as well as every school.
“It’s a lot easier to be angry at someone than it is to tell them you’re hurt.”
– Tom Gates
Your name: Sarah Allen
Business name: Sometimes I Feel; Emotional Development Resources
3 fun facts about you:
1) I’m an artist as well (I especially love doing pet portraits and wildlife drawings/paintings)
2) I’ve been told I have a memory like and elephant and I usually remember the things I’m not supposed too
3) I LOVE chocolate
Tell me a bit more about your business: Sometimes I Feel are children’s emotional development resources to help them learn about and explore different feelings. I believe that I can’t change the world but I can change the world for a child; and I believe you can too!
Where did the passion for this come from: I am firstly an OT and Play Therapist working here in Johannesburg as a volunteer in underprivileged communities and babies home. I originally come from the U.K. and when I saw how few resources we have to meet the needs of the children I was working with here, I decided to create my own. Originally for my own practice (as I’d brought some from the U.K. but the kids couldn’t connect to them here) but then it developed as more people saw the books and cards and wanted them, so I decided to start producing more. As I grew in confidence, my passion and creativity also grew to create new and innovative products to meet the needs of parents, therapists, educators and children across this country.
What makes your products different: They are specially geared towards South African children. I have spent hours working with the children and learning about issues/feelings/emotions that effect them and have created resources to meet their needs. They are also multi ethnic which many products currently in the social and emotional sector currently are not. My products are always used and tested by a range of South African kids to ensure that they work in our context.
They are South African produced and made; I work closely with a South African printer here in Johannesburg. The paper we use is Non-Tearable and Wipeable to make them long lasting.
How do you get inspired for your books: By the children I work with daily, their continually inspire me; I see the need, the passion, how they respond to my products and that’s what encourages me and drives me to create new products for them. I’ve been so inspired by the response of the people I have met who have bought, used, engaged with my products; the fact that businesses would sponsor print runs to get them to the children who need them fills me with joy and pushes me on to create more to meet peoples. Our country is lacking in high quality South African resources inspired by our diverse communities and environment; This also inspires me to also ensure that I am creating culturally relevant and diverse products.
How can people order from you: You can order directly from me, via my Facebook page (I have a shop on there) or email address (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Who do you think would benefit from owning these: Schools, Therapists, Parents and children
I see you have recently done a new book – please tell me more: So I’ve actually produced 2 new products that I’m excited about. I’ve created the Sometimes I Feel 2 Book set which carries on from the first one but explores different emotions, is slightly more advanced but follows the same principles as the first one.
And the second is my new Conflict Resolution game for teens and tweens; exploring different scenarios that adolescents face and how they might deal with them, I’m an interactive way.
What was your very first book/product you wrote/created:
It was the Sometimes I Feel book set; I wrote the book to help younger children learn about feelings and begin to name them. I also wrote it for the educators I was working with at the time in the townships to have a resource to use with their children in the classroom to discuss feelings like sad, happy, angry, scared.
I then added in the flashcards because the book was a great starting point but it didn’t go far enough. Teachers, therapists and parents needed something tangible to help their children identify how they were feeling at any particular point or when discussing certain topics so I made the flashcards to stick in the wall or lay them out on the floor and the child can point to how they are feeling which opens up a discussion.
Often children (and adults) don’t have to words to express how they are feeling but they can point to a picture that reflects their feelings.
If you could recommend just one thing for people to start off with from your range, what would it be: I would start with the Sometimes I Feel Book Set (You get a book and a set of flashcards for R300) it was the first product and my initial go-to. Followed on quickly by the Sometimes I Feel Board Game which the kids LOVE. It puts into action what you have learned in the book and gives you ways to manage your overwhelming feelings.
What do you do in your spare time: What spare time?! 😉 I like to take my dogs for walks, watching movies, hanging out and laughing with friends, explore this beautiful country and play the piano.
Have you always had such a big heart for others: Yes 🙂 my favourite dress up costume as a child was a nurses outfit so I think my care for people has always been there.
I knew I would probably go into a caring profession.
I love connecting with people, meeting people from all different walks of life. But I especially have always loved young children; their excitement, zest for life and their capacity for love, despite some facing so many challenges.
Quote you live by: ‘Tea helps everything’ 😉 and ‘Just do it’
Anything else you want to add:🌟 Personalised Books are now available for you children, grandchildren, kids birthdays, cousins…make your child feel extra special with this gift 💝
🌟 They are written and illustrated by me. They rhyme for ease of reading and have proven to be very popular so far!
🌟 Follow this link to view the stories and the options (prices start from R199! 😊
I absolutely adore all of Sarah’s creations, and I am sure that you do too! These are wonderful resources to help speak through any emotions, events, or issues that your children/family/students may be experiencing. And I remember always wanting a personalised book when I was growing up.
If you haven’t yet, please enter our competition on Facebook here, and on Instagram here. Entries close on Friday and you really don’t want to miss out!
Thank you Sarah for allowing me to interview you, and for all you are doing to bring joy to the world. I am so lucky to know you.
I can’t even tell you when I discovered Chick Cosmetics, but I have been utterly obsessed from the very first product I bought from them. I have tried their makeup, their skincare, their makeup brushes, and even their makeup sponge – and have never been disappointed. In fact their brushes are what I make use of on a daily basis, and I find myself reaching for their products more often than not. Their customer service is out of this world, and I was SO excited to meet Nomfundo in July last year at their Pop-Up Shop in Sandton.
I immediately squealed and totally fan-girled my way up to her. I couldn’t believe that I finally got to meet the creator of my favourite make-up brand in person – and she was so kind to me too. Beautiful inside and out, what more could we really ask for?
I have seen her brand grow from strength to strength, and I couldn’t be happier for Nomfundo and the entire brand. They are constantly on top of trends, and I have seen them popping up more and more across social media and in beauty articles. I am SO honoured to have been given the opportunity to interview them and show you a bit more about them. But be warned – you WILL be hooked and want to own every single product!
How would you describe Chick Cosmetics: Chick Cosmetics is a beauty brand which makes clean, cruelty-free products to a millennial and generation z target market.
Where did the idea for this business come from: During a short stay abroad, I ended up losing my makeup bag and found myself in a Sephora. I was amazed of how many indie brands are available in other countries. I knew right then I wanted to be a part of this, and the rest is history.
What makes your products different to others: Our objective was not to create a brand exclusively for one segment of the population, but rather to design a product that would appeal to beauty consumers regardless of their background. Diversity and inclusivity have now become the norm among young audiences, which is why we looked to make it part of our brand DNA from the beginning.
What is your personal favourite product: Glow Boost Serum – our vitamin C facial serum.
What have been the most popular items: Glow Boost Serum, Nightwind Eyeshadow Palette, Microfiber Beauty Sponge and Pro-Sculpt brushes, the world’s most beautiful brushes.
How did lockdown affected your business: Lockdown took place during a crucial time in our business which was mid-production. We had to halt everything until it was safe to produce. The positive side is that our online sales increased, and we sold out all our products.
How has Chick Cosmetics evolved since you first started it?
The beauty dynamic has changed a lot since we first launched. We started it off as a color cosmetic brand, we have recently started a skincare range which has received a positive feedback from our beauty community . We believe in taking care of your skin first.
If people are buying from you for the first time, what are the top 3 products you would recommend: I will always recommend Baggage Claim eye patches, Glow Boost Serum and Microfiber Beauty Sponge
Quote you live by: “You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in.” Elizabeth Yukowsky
Anything else you want to add: We love you Meggi. Thank you always for your constant support. We pray for your life and healing.
Guys, these products are currently sold out (well done Chick Cosmetics!), but they will restock ASAP as well as launching some very exciting new products. With teasers being put out across their social media, the hype is definitely real. A new face oil, and “another beauty box” are launching soon; and I am always checking their platforms to try find out more. In fact they are one of the few pages that I have turned on notifications for every new post!
If I could, I would own every product they have brought out, and I think that I am slowly slowly working my way there (I still have a way to go, but jeepers I don’t want to miss out on any of their new launches).
Thank you again Nomfundo for your time, your passion, and your kindness. You are one in a million, and I will always be your number one fan.
Recently a friend of mine posted on her social media saying she was looking for a black baby doll for her daughter. She was horrified at the lack of selection in the shops (there were only 2 options in 4 full rows of white dolls), and their prices seemed to be a lot higher as well. I was shocked! How, in South Africa especially, is this a reality?
And then I thought back to the time I went looking for a black doll for a child of one of the Rare Bear Project lady’s. I remember how I searched all over and really battled to find one. I felt exhausted, and let-down. But then I handed over the little black doll to Progeny’s daughter and I saw her literal excitement as she held a baby that looked like her. I saw her little face light up and she immediately began to play with her new friend. I knew that I had to do more research into this!
Recently I posted on my Instagram asking for recommendations of local businesses that people recommend, and Toys with Roots was top of the list. I immediately sent Thabo and Mpumi a message to find out more about their business and this great husband-and-wife team. And guys, this is a business like no other. I am SO excited about what they are doing, how they are encouraging self-love and that they are celebrating our beautiful African heritage.
Your names: Thabo & Mpumi Motsabi (Founders)
Business name: Toys with Roots
Shoprite Jan Smuts – Toys with Roots: Thabo & Mpumi Motsabi
Tell me a fun/interesting fact about the 2 of you: We were in the same high school but the first time we exchanged words was years later while doing our tertiary studies.
Tell me a bit more about Toys with Roots: Toys with Roots exists to ensure that each African child can have an experience of being intentionally and beautifully celebrated. We believe that our African children need to identify with as well as see themselves and their greatness in the songs they sing, books they read, toys they engage with and media they consume. It is through Play that they can best learn and form important concepts about themselves and their world. We believe that toys aren’t just toys but tools to educate, mould and shape children. We have an online store where we sell these products. We find like minded entrepreneurs and sell their producs in order to ensure that we can provide parents a one stop shop of all the toys and books for African children that they would desire.
Where did the idea for this business come from: When we started in 2015 our daughters then 3 & 7 years would put towels on their hair pretending to have long flowy hair, from the cartoons they watched and toys they played with. We could see that there was a dissatisfaction with their natural hair and this was concerning. What was even sadder was that we couldn’t find much in store which represented what they looked like amongst aisles of products. We later had an opportunity to buy brown dolls from a lady we met who was selling from the boot of her car. We were so excited to see these beautiful dolls that represented our children so respectfully. Being entrepreneurial, we bought a few more to resell because we recognized that there were parents out there who were faced with the same struggle of finding toys that represented their children. Since then we have been on a journey to assist parents to affirm their children and help them recognise the value in their uniqueness.
How long have you guys been running for: We started in March 2015, so we celebrated 5 years this year. Through this journey we have managed to develop our business model and have become a one stop shop for a variety of toys and books for African children.
We have around 8 doll brands, 7 book authors with 5 languages represented. We specialise in brown dolls of different shades, sizes and hair. The dolls all have a story behind them and are created by passionate entrepreneurs from around the continent. Lali is our inhouse fashion doll brand created by Toys with Roots.
We have children’s books that are written in different South African languages, the ones in vernacular are suitable for entry level readers. Within the book range we also have a fashion book which appeals to our tweens market.
Within the range are also puzzles and backpacks.
We created a childrens music album with different South African nursery rhymes “Songs with Lali” which is also available on different digital music platforms.
We have plans to create more products for boys and increase the diversity of products on offer, all with the same intention of celebrating African children.
In addition to these products, we have created a range of dolls for Shoprite Checkers, called Rainbow Kids. This is a project we are very proud of due to its social impact reaching children in parts of the country and the continent which we have not been able to reach.
Which is your personal favourite product in your range: Definitely Songs with Lali musical album! We are a family which sings ALL THE TIME! We make up our own songs as a family just for fun and also to help with learning. The close favourite is the African-Hut because our youngest two always like to play outside in their Ndebele tents.
Why do you think diversity is so important, especially in South Africa: South Africa is characterised by deep seated pain and complexes of inferiority and supremacy, which are not going to be eradicated in a generation. These beliefs are passed on through generations, sometimes unknowingly. It is through exposure to the “other” in our society that learning can begin to take place and some of these beliefs we may hold can be tested and replaced. It may be a difficult process to face the friction that may take place as values clash but it is through this friction, we believe, that dialogues can start and that we can actually begin educating each other and making positive choices. These choices may take the form of having a representative toybox, learning new languages, joining in experiences which are unfamiliar…
Diversity is a strength because it allows for the above to take place. It adds colour, texture and opens us up to new learnings and experiences. We believe that it is our differences in background, perspective, skills, abilities, the way we view the world that make us valuable contributors whether it be in the boardroom or in the classroom.
Exposure to diversity in children’s toy boxes enable them to understand that different doesn’t mean less than or greater than. It just means different. The diversity in their toy box can help them role play the world around them more creatively and in the long run assist them to be more understanding of those around them. It is important in order to erase these perceptions which have existed for so long, so that we can have an inclusive South Africa. #representationmatters Through black children seeing people like them in powerful roles in media, in books, in boardrooms, they can begin to aspire to also be great.
Shoprite Jan Smuts – Toys with Roots: Mpumi, Nyakallo & Thabo Motsabi
Why is #BlackLivesMatter a movement that we need to all take notice of: We believe in Ubuntu, that I am because you are. We are not independent of each other, therefore when you hurt I hurt. Said differently, as the human race, we are different parts of the same body. If one part of the body is hurt, e.g. the toe, the whole body stops and pays attention to the pain of the toe and takes steps as one to heal the toe. The impact of the pain on the toe affects the functioning of the entire body. Right now black people are hurting. This is not a new pain, we need to be clear about this. All around the world black people are fighting for recogniton of worth and it’s important that people around the world, the human race, ask themselves how they can help heal this wound. Here is a link to our blog on the subject.
Where can people purchase your products from: Our online store, Our Lali and Baby Thando range is also available at selected Toys R Us stores and our Rainbow Kids range is available exclusively at Shoprite/Checkers stores nationally.
Why do you think your products are so well-loved: We believe that a large part of it is the desire for parents to give their children what they didn’t have – toys which equip and strengthen them to be self aware and love their black skin, not aspiring to be anything different. There is an awakening amongst black people happening in South Africa and around the world and parents want to ensure that they affirm their children’s instric worth so that they are strong enough to navigate the harsh and discriminatory world. Lastly because they are just so pretty 🙂
Why do you encourage people to purchase your products for their kids: Toys have a Psychological voice and this video shows how toys and the media can negatively affect how children view themselves. So we encourage parents to choose products that celebrate who their children are. We also believe that for parents who are not black, our products have a place because their peers at school and others they interact with may be black so theses toys (with some parent guidance) can help them learn how to treat others who may be different to them.
How did lockdown affect your business: Very negatively. We were unable to trade for two months and many people are focusing on buying essential products so toy sales have taken a back seat. We are confident though that as birthdays come along, people from all races will choose Toys with Roots to do their shopping.
Quote you live by: “Whether You Think You Can Or Think You Can’t, You’re Right.” – Henry Ford “If you ask me what I came to do, I came to live out loud!” – Emile Zola
Anything else you want to add: As a black woman entering the corporate world, there were many battles I had to fight within and a feeling of being less than my white counterparts always followed me. This was untrue of course but I do believe that there were beliefs I held which I know many others hold today. I don’t want this to be the reality for my children. I want them to enter into rooms confidently and not feeling as though their race discounts them from sitting at the table. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Ps 139
As I finish writing this blog, and truly taking in everything that has been written by Thabo and Mpumi, I am in tears. I know that South Africa can come together as a nation. And I absolutely LOVE what Toys with Roots is doing. I have seen first-hand the joy it brings a little girl to see a doll that looks like her – or perhaps one that looks like her friend in her class. We need to start having open and honest conversations, as well as learning from those around us. We need to be supportive, kind, and caring. We need to be like the dolls above and make the world a brighter place.
Please support this beautiful business! I would love to see more of their dolls all over the place – at my friends’ houses, at playdates, out with the ladies living in KyaSands, and carried around shopping centres with pride. I know that I am going to be purchasing some for gifts going forward, as well as the playschool in KyaSands, and I truly hope that you will do the same.