Shining a light in a time of crisis

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Left to right: Illana Kahn (winner of the Viewers’ Choice award), Vanessa Frankal (second runner up), Sue Clague and Mandi Dicks (Ajay Apparel – overall winners) and Phillip Rubin (third runner up).

2020! A number like that had to be auspicious. An epic year! But Covid-19 shifted our world in a way no-one could have anticipated. Businesses closed; jobs were lost; people have had to dig deep to find their edge both personally and professionally.

After a very challenging year, local entrepreneur Richard Goldstein approached Staffwise about shining a ray of light on our community. And so, The Shining Light Award came about to spotlight businesses in our community who have managed to rise up to take the bull by the horns and show how through resilience and out of the box thinking, what they can achieve in a time of crisis. They adapted, evolved or simply made positive adjustments to keep their businesses afloat.

Staffwise and ORT Jet Cape Town jumped at the opportunity to collaborate and make it happen.  Lisa Sandler from ORT Jet said: “After some reflection we thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase innovation and opportunity with businesses from our community who have pivoted to get through the lockdown.” Liat Beinart, Staffwise’s Career Catalyst said it was an exciting opportunity for the two communal organisations “to complement and collaborate and let this initiative to take shape”. 

Inspired by Goldstein’s idea, generous donors from the community recognised the space for rewarding local businesses who took steps to stay afloat during Covid-19 instead of leaning on the community for financial support, said Liat.

“Despite initial reservations to this award,” says Caroline Kaimowitz, of Staffwise, “we had a fantastic response from the community”. Initial reservations were about the sensitivity of rewarding and highlighting businesses when it was such a tough year fraught with personal and financial difficulties. “But this proved to be unfounded as we received so much positivity and the number of applications – almost 50 – was beyond our expectations”, added Caroline.

After reviewing all the inspiring entries, the top 10 were selected:  Ajay Apparel, Coffeeright, Gorgeous Gourmet, Health Island, Noapop, Petals Group, Platinum Promotions, Repatriation Flight Specialists – We get you there, Ruby Accessories cc, and Sisters Act, and invited to attended a “Pitch-to-Win session” coached by well-known entrepreneur, coach and TV personality Justin Cohen. 

On making it into the top 10, Sisters Act, said: “Thank you so much for the amazing news – we are just honoured to have made the top 10 and are grateful for the opportunity we have been given to be a part of this great competition.”

Platinum Promotions said: “Thank you. I’m overwhelmed and honoured. It feels incredible to be acknowledged and to truly allow me to see the Shining Light. Even if I don’t make it further than the top 10, this has facilitated me to finally ask for help.”

The build up to the final awards ceremony was thrilling. It began with the top-10 pitching in front of a panel of judges including social and business entrepreneurs, Lara Rosmarin, Richard Goldstein, Avi Levy and Dawn Nathan-Jones. Despite the technical glitches on the night of the finals it was an exciting and buzzing event. The top 10 finalists gathered in the Old Shul at the Jewish Museum in Gardens for a final opportunity to showcase their businesses to a live Zoom audience and face a final question by the judges. After intense deliberation the judges made the final call on the winner. Mandi Dicks and her mother Sue Clague of Ajay Apparel took home the grand prize of R18 000 plus a Golden Circle offer from Over the Rainbow. They pivoted their uniform manufacturing business into a mask making operation within two weeks of lockdown, without cutting costs or laying off staff, plus making an 89% turnover. Vanessa Frankal’s V-Travel and Philip Rubin ‘s Health Island were in 2nd and 3rd place respectively. The event was round-up with a Viewer’s Choice vote going to Illana Kahn and her Coffeeright, winning an additional generous donation of R7 200. 

Everyone agreed that COVID-19 presented a unique opportunity for this award to take off. “There is definitely opportunity to create something similar going forward to shine the light on entrepreneurial businesses” said Liat. “In fact, in a conversation with our panel of judges, this was discussed. This could be the seed for many future initiatives”, added ORT Jet’s Brenna Frankel.

With Chanukah just around the corner, honouring the hard-fought victory of the Maccabees over the bigger Syrian army, it is fitting that The Shining Light Award honours these businesses in our community and celebrates their courage, resilience and success, in what’s otherwise been a very challenging year.

Staffwise www.staffwise.org
ORT Jet www.ortjetcapetown.org.za

Left – Right: Illana Kahn (Coffeeright), Terri Frankental (Plantinum Promotions), Lara Rosmarin (Judge), Lee Jaffe (Gorgeous Gourmet), Veronica Yankelowitz (Petals Group)

Published in the print edition of the December 2020/January 2021 issue.
Download the Dec/Jan issue PDF here.

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