Tradition brings joy

Staff members of The Bean People in front of the container with their 100th shipment.

For staff of The Bean People in Fish Eagle Park, the loading of a container before shipment is always a joyous occasion, with singing and dancing and it was even more so on Friday March 9 when they loaded their 100th container.

The Bean People, owned by Chris and Sharon Sutcliffe, makes handmade bath beans and bath-salt balls with spongy animals and shapes inside, which they export to Europe.

The couple started the business from the garage of their Fish Hoek home in 1988 and shipped their first container in 2006.

Since then, the company has grown and the number of employees has risen from 12 to 65, with most coming from Masiphumelele.

Ms Sutcliffe said the tradition of singing and dancing while packing containers had developed naturally as the women sang songs of praise as an expression of gratitude for their employment.

She said the factory had been buzzing with excitement on Friday March 9 and the women had sung for two hours as they had formed a long queue, passing the boxes from the warehouse to the container.

Each container holds 756 boxes, and it takes three weeks to produce enough stock to fill one.

Mr Sutcliffe believes the singing is part of their success.

A warehouse in Germany once asked the Sutcliffes to place the boxes on pallets and load them with a forklift to make it easier to unload, but the couple told them that would take away the women’s enjoyment of the process. The warehouse was happy with their explanation.

After the container was loaded on Friday, the women followed the truck down the road all the way to Kommetjie Road, carrying balloons and placards reading: “Thank God for container 100.”

When they returned to the factory they were each awarded with a certificate for helping to make up the 100th container.

“It was such a special day,” Ms Sutcliffe said.