Our second case study for our SHIFT initiative is Camp Cover. SHIFT serves to showcase business that has pivoted from a place of purpose and met the challenges presented by Covid with resiliency, determination, and a passion to make it work for themselves, customers and employees.
Camp Cover is a recognised market leader in innovative storage and travel solutions. We spoke with executive manager, Hannelie Strauss, on how the business pivoted early on in the lockdown following international trends.
Camp Cover remained true to their driving values of sustainable, environmentally friendly, local and superior scientifically tested products. Although many have pivoted into producing Covid-19 protective gear, Camp Cover worked in conjunction with leading South African universities to make sure what they were producing met ISO standards and was a reliable, reusable solution in warding of the disease.
A quote that sums up their driving force during this time
“We can not become what we need to be by remaining what we are. People hate change, yet it is the only thing that brings progress, growth and improvement.” – John Tibane
When did you decide to pivot the business and what inspired the change?
We realised early on that in all likelihood South Africa will follow the rest of the world and implement a national lockdown. Immediately the following President Ramaphosa’s first speech on 15 March we made contact with both trade unions and employer’s associations. We made numerous enquiries regarding our staff which was our biggest concern at that stage. We quickly realised that we needed to pivot the business in order to sustain livelihoods. We had an opportunity with the right people and the right raw materials. We commenced with health and safety training and information sessions, answering as many questions as we could and facilitating the transition process to the best of our ability. Within three working days we had finalised our samples, product photos, packaging, raw materials and tools and we commenced production on Monday, 30th of March 2020.
Being in travel and storage solutions, what was the operational impact and what did it require from yourself and the team?
Operationally it was a challenge. We had to split the manufacturing teams, to have fewer employees on the premises at once. We had to organise their safe, private transport, which amounted to approximately R25 000 per week. The team had never, ever made barrier facial masks before – every single person was new to the process, although we had all the machinery necessary. We had to plan meticulously to have two competent teams, with no overlapping or lacking skills and abilities. The team was up to speed within a few days and hit our target of 6 000 masks per day. The office staff worked remotely from home, and we had the production manager and an administrative assistant on-site daily. To say our entire team were stretched to our limits in all spheres is the understatement of the year. Planning, managing, administrative functions, communication with clients, meetings, marketing – all required us to put our best foot forward. Nothing was easy. Nothing was uncomplicated. Everyone was out of their comfort zone – it made us dig deep, both professionally and personally.
Your team stands by testing, sustainability and supporting local. What measures have been put in place to ensure this was applied to your new offering?
We source all raw materials from local manufactures and do not make use of any imported materials. We drive locally-manufactured very hard in all our campaigns with our main focus being on employing and empowering people in a time where many are left sitting at home with no income or hope. We had our masks tested by Stellenbosch University for breathability and barrier qualities, to ensure we do not supply the market with an unsafe or inferior product. In short, we did not deviate from our core values and vision – local, authentic, quality, practical and functional products. We made use of suppliers we have done business within the past, or from whom we are currently purchasing materials for our traditional product lines. In this manner, we kept supporting them as well, with peace of mind that we would receive quality, local manufactured raw materials.
What has your business embraced during this time that as a team you will continue going forward?
We are thinking entirely out of the box. Being innovative and adaptive – even if it means manufacturing products you have never done before or entering markets and possible offsets that was unknown to us. We have not taken no for an answer, we keep knocking on doors and falling back on traditional marketing skills and not solely relying on social and digital platforms. The personal relationships we had with our big wholesalers is what clinched deals for us now. Relationships that was built over the years, physically visiting buyers, seeing their stores, being involved – not merely engaging over emails or Zoom.
What advice would you give to businesses considering making a shift during these times?
Do it as fast as possible, but with decent planning. It would be best if you had the buy-in from your entire team, as there will be challenging times ahead. You will not be able to do this on your own. Nobody is going to save you or bail you out or assist when you are not able to pay your rent or staff – you are your own plan b, c and d.
What type of narrative would you like to see more of in our economic landscape? Have you come across anything you feel should get more airtime?
We would like to see focus on employment opportunities and supporting local manufacturing – irrespective of age, race or gender. We have an unemployment rate of almost 40% – which will worsen with this pandemic. We need to create jobs and truly support our local economies. Stifling, inadequate, and often senseless regulations and legislations is killing our economy.
Watch this space for our weekly coverage of South African businesses rising to the challenge.
Get in touch if you need a partner in navigating the market.
“Innovation is not about changing your product, it’s about changing your mindset. It’s not about doing something new, it’s about stopping doing something old.”