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Meet Janine Roberts and the ladies from Ukama Holdings, one element of the Lavender in Lavender Hill

At Lavender in Lavender Hill our social aim is to support job creation and entrepreneurial empowerment in the Lavender Hill community and surrounding Cape Town areas. For this reason we mainly work with community and underprivileged producers, small enterprises, entrepreneurs and companies that support job creation and empowerment. Janine Roberts and Ukama Holdings make up one element of our production team and does just that! Ukama Holdings is our packaging partner that packages our essential oils, cooking herbs and teas. Based in Vrygrond, a few minutes from Lavender Hill, you will find the fantastic Ukama team. Where life is filled with violence and poverty, Vrygrond is not a natural choice for many entrepreneurs to set up shop but it is the perfect environment to make a difference. In an effort to address South Africa’s long-term unemployment problem, Janine launched a co-packing enterprise and incubation program that empowers micro-entrepreneurs from the area. "After nine years in a nursing career I got interested in the packaging industry and studied for a diploma in packaging technology. This led me to becoming the Managing director of an outsource food packing company in 2009. In 2010 I started my first business, Zimele Packing Solutions, a consulting business in packaging and product development. Unfortunately, that did not work out as planned and four years later I closed up shop. But I was not going to let this defeat me. I opened Ukama Holdings in 2014, a social enterprise started with the aim of creating or identifying micro enterprises that act as a supply chain for various services. Ukama Holdings was started to address the needs of unemployment in South Africa, as well as cater to the needs of small, medium and large companies needing to outsource their production and packing. In South Africa we have huge unemployment rates. I sincerely feel that solving the unemployment problem lies in alleviating poverty and that this can be done with our unique business model. Ukama provides contract packaging for customers in a food grade facility using solely micro enterprises as our supply chain. We identify, train, set up and provide work and premises for micro-enterprises in our business. We also offer support such as bookkeeping assistance and business workshops to the micro-enterprises, which in turn hire on average five people from their local community. Ukama also offers employment to people working from home, mostly women, who look after disabled or sick family members and wouldn’t otherwise be able to work. These micro-enterprises serve as the supply chain who pack products for our customers. Each micro-enterprise owner employs up to five people. To date we have created jobs for over 60 people already.

Ukama is Shona for ‘we are family’. It’s a word that encompasses our inclusive philosophy and outlook. This is my life’s purpose. I’ve been privileged to have so many wonderful moments – every day is new and interesting and we do a lot of laughing and learning – but the best thing is seeing people become who they should have been all along. I want to show other businesses that they can make an impact socially. Business can be used as a tool to empower people throughout Africa. I hope big businesses will eventually use their power for change as well as for profit and that this approach will even out the societal inequalities throughout Africa." The Ukama Holdings and Lavender in Lavender Hill business models share the same social goals, each working with micro-enterprises or small entrepreneurs to produce their products and in so doing making a difference to job creation and entrepreneurship in Cape Town.

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