The Kapula Story

What began as a hobby / home industry in Ilse Appelgryn’s kitchen in 1993 quickly took on a life of its own and became a fully-fledged family business in 1994 – making Kapula 20 years old today. In the beginning there was just Ilse and one assistant, today Kapula boasts a staff compliment of nearly 120 people.


Our candles are all hand-made in Bredasdorp, using only the best imported raw materials. They are then hand painted with original designs, most inspired by our African heritage and composed of bright / vivid colours and patterns. Just over five years ago we expanded into ceramics production, bringing our unique designs to this medium too.

 

Originally the designs all came from Ilse, and while she is still most active in this role today, it has grown into a situation where design sources include her daughter as well as members of the painting staff themselves. This inclusive approach has been a great asset in terms of adding variety as well as keeping us current with modern trends (along with setting a few of our own).

 

A large part of Kapula’s focus is on creating sustainable employment in our small farming community, where it is not easy to find work without being able to drive a tractor or herd cattle – 90% of our workers are women, and more than half of them have worked with us for over ten years. We are provisional members of the World Fair Trade Organization, and apply their principles to create a positive and empowering work environment. We are currently also involved in a program with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, through which we have employed ten youngsters who recently finished high school, the goal of which is to provide them with employment and help them develop working skills and experience.

 

We have been a prominent member of the Cape Craft and Design Institute since their inception, and regularly participate in workshops and send staff for training in courses involving everything from SWOT analyses to creativity to life skills.

 

Whilst a large part of our business is domestic, Kapula has been exporting in vast quantities to clients such as Unicef for well over ten years. Currently our largest international client is Contigo, a Fair Trade retailer and wholesale distributor based in Germany, which supplies over 700 World Shops across Western Europe. We are also currently making inroads (via trade shows and agents) into markets in the USA and Middle East, as well as Australia and the Far East.

 

In 1999 we opened our own retail outlet in a quaint old barn on the same block as our factory, which has gone from strength to strength over the years - today it is a major destination for visitors to Bredasdorp, with tour buses stopping in most days to shop and enjoy a cup of tea in the garden. It turns over an average of 1,4 million Rand per year. Coupled with this we regularly welcome groups (of tourists, school children, the elderly and more) at our factory buildings where they are guided through and get to meet our people and see the full manufacturing process behind our products.

 

Looking to the future, we are committed to our Kapula family, our community and our country. We hope to continue growing in order to provide more people with something good – a job/skill to be proud of and have fun with, a culture to celebrate, art to appreciate.