What a Turnaround: Big Corporate to Lend Small Business a Helping Hand

A very cute and comfy baby carrier is on its way to market. The result of a collaboration between two local brands that share similar values. One is part of the large Cape Union Mart Group; the other is a small owner-run business.

Well-known local kids’ clothing brand Keedo recently signed a collaboration agreement with the proudly South African baby-carrier brand Ubuntu Baba.

Keedo was founded in 1993 when Nelia Annandale was inspired by the needs of her twin ‘Keedos’ to develop a colourful range of clothing that offered unrestricted comfort in soft, natural fibres.

“For as long as I can remember, I have experienced an overwhelming compulsion to serve the children of the world. I believe that we must begin investing in them from their formative years as they are the ones who will be fashioning the future,” she said at the time.

Annandale harnessed her entrepreneurial drive and creativity and built a business on the pillars of education, care, and sustainability. In 2017, Keedo was acquired by the Cape Union Mart Group, which consists of five major retail chains (Cape Union Mart, K-Way, Old Khaki, Poetry, and Tread+Miller) and has more than 300 stores.

Similarly, Shannon McLaughlin’s experiences as a mom and her struggle to find the perfect baby carrier inspired her to start Ubuntu Baba. She and her father designed the exact baby carrier that she’d been looking for: “hip-healthy”, easy to use, breathable, adjustable, in natural hemp fibre and very gentle on c-section healing.

Mari Crause of Keedo Kids explains how the collaboration came about. “Being a mom myself, I relied on my Ubuntu Baba carrier for hands-free baby carrying, to settle my little bub when she was inconsolable. Our Ubuntu Baba carrier went everywhere with us and at one point we were inseparable. I loved being so very close to my baby and it allowed me to have her right up against my chest, safe and snug, whenever, wherever.”

“Reflecting back on the early days of Motherhood, my Ubuntu Baba carrier was one of the items I could not have done without. Everything about Ubuntu Baba speaks to me, especially the fact that the brand was locally founded by a Mamma just like me. I appreciate the product’s classic design; it is not only aesthetically pleasing but also perfectly practical and adjustable. I could not keep this secret to myself and when I joined Keedo Kids, Ubuntu Baba’s founder was the first person I reached out to for a collaboration.”

For her part, Shannon says, “When shopping for clothing for my son, I often try to go into a Keedo store. I just love the Keedo fabrics, their prints, and their quality. They have an energy about them. So, when Mari contacted us, I couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream.”

In the discussions that followed, Shannon discovered several synergies between the two companies. Like Ubuntu Baba, Keedo is invested in local manufacturing and job creation, and the brands share a lot of the same values.

“We hopped onto a Zoom call, which included Nelia Annandale and five minutes into the call I was so emotional,” Shannon recalls. “Nelia made us feel so valued for what we are trying to do as a local brand, the values that we shared, and the way we like to do things. It was just such a contrast from my last experience with a large corporate entity and I felt so honoured that they wanted to collaborate in a way that would be beneficial to both brands.”

A very different experience for Ubuntu Baba since the media storm of January 2019, when another large retailer was accused of appropriating their baby carrier design.

In contrast, when a large corporate, aligns with a small business based on a genuine intention to help them grow, this builds trust and loyalty among consumers, “it’s a win-win,” she says.

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