As owner and director of AfriCrafters, Lucrisha Polton says her days are as varied as fingerprints. "I do what whatever it takes to get the job done." Drawing on skills from finance to design, and from sourcing materials to tracking down exceptional rural crafters, Lucrisha is a true all-rounder.
Exposed to business from an early age, Lucrisha travelled around South Africa with her family, as her father's work took him to small towns and rural villages across the country. "He always believed the best education comes from personal experiences, and the travelling gave me a sense of freedom."
Having seen the impact of apartheid on black South Africans for herself, she was acutely aware of the hardships they faced on a daily basis. She was also deeply inspired by the spirit, warmth and the talent of people she met on her trips. "Images of artists selling their work on the side of the road stayed with me for most of my life, and I hoped that one day I'd be able to play a role in showing them off to the world."
Even at school, Lucrisha realised she wanted to help people. "My desire to empower people grew, and today I still look for opportunities to assist people, and serve with no expectations. My motto is Pass the favour on and this approach has created the most incredible ripple effect." After school, Lucrisha's journey took her through various jobs and business ventures. She joined her family's business supplying fresh cut potato fries and vegetables to fast food chains including Nando's and Spur. "I was a buyer, sales person and quality control," she laughs. She also travelled with her father, advising rural farmers, helping them develop their crops and improve yields.
Once she'd completed her studies, she travelled abroad, landing an exciting position at a media company in Scotland. But South Africa was always home, and eventually Lucrisha returned and started her first entrepreneurial venture, a bistro in Cape Town. A second restaurant followed shortly, but two years later she sold them, moved back to KwaZulu-Natal, and took time out to be a wife and mum.
Bringing Africa to the world
She soon realised that it was time to follow her passion for humanitarian causes and in 2017 she founded AfriCrafters. "The seed for this had been planted in my childhood. We link artists with the global supply chain, giving our artists a foot in the international market, and creating a sustainable living for them. Artists are so often exploited but I believe they should earn an income equal to their talent and creativity."
"Every step I've taken has led me to where I am today," she says. Crediting her grandmother and parents for instilling in her a sense of confidence and tenacity, Lucrisha points out that AfriCrafters is driven by her love for people and watching them develop. "I see inspiration everywhere, in people, animals, nature, my children and life itself. I love telling stories and couldn't think of a better way than to do it than through arts and crafts. Each artwork is unique and made from recycled material, and each piece tells a story."
"Culture is a big factor in my industry," she says. "My crafters come from a diversity of communities and I need to understand that a woman is treated differently in some cultures. I have to be mindful of this, particularly when dealing with men of a patriarchal culture." While this is a significant factor in her approach to business, Lucrisha doesn't believe it has held her back. "If anything, my respect for cultural differences has allowed me to create stronger, better business relationships."
Despite this, she feels strongly that women should not shy away or hide their abilities when dealing with men. "It's your expertise in your industry, and your confidence that will set you apart, not just as a businesswoman but as a businessperson. And we are the nurturers, building a base on which future generations of women will succeed. We should never lose sight of this, and the way we can inspire other women."
Taking Africa to the world
Lucrisha is deeply grateful for her accomplishments. "It is my mission to take Africa to the world, and I've achieved far more than I ever thought possible in such a short time. I planted a seed and let the universe water it and nourish it. There's still a lot to do, and I'll continue to live my mission and vision, and I'm confident we'll progress steadily, one goal at a time."
Believing in work-life harmony rather than work-life balance, Lucrisha explains that there is always an ebb and flow to obligations to family, business, friends and community. "And to myself." she adds. "I set aside time for my family and friends just as I do for business, and I make sure I have me-time to do the things I love too. After all, one must nourish to flourish. Time-management is key to getting it right, and you have to know your limits."
Asked what advice she'd give her younger self, Lucrisha points out that we are taught to train our bodies and value our intellect, but we need to learn to regulate our emotions and deal with our sensitivities and sensibilities. "Trust your intuition, dream big, and create your reality. Choose love. Choose inner peace. Choose joy. Choose you!"