Member Spotlight: Katja Schmidt from Potters Hand Activations

Katja Schmidt - 300pxEach month we shine the light on an Event Greening Forum member who is making noteworthy achievements in their event greening efforts. This month we feature Katja Schmidt, the founder and managing director of Potters Hand Activations, an event activations agency that has a strong social upliftment ethos.

 

Q: WHEN AND WHY DID YOU START TO INVEST IN COMMUNITY PROJECTS THROUGH POTTERS HAND ACTIVATIONS?

A: As a company we felt that we wanted to give something back to our nearby community and make an impact with what we already know and have within our ability to do. Through various relationships, a door opened to us in the rural secondary school called St Ansgars in the Lanseria area, where our connections and resources have made an impact through educational upliftment projects. This is our third year of involvement there and some of the programmes and projects that we initiated and implemented are: the quarterly awards recognition programmes where the top learners are handed blazers and top achievement badges, a Spelling Bee competition, Educator motivational workshops, a top learner seaside getaway for 45 learners, leadership training for the class captains, two career expo’s and other environmental and educational upliftment projects either through our own resources or through sponsors we sourced.

 

Q: WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS FOR YOU, PERHAPS SPECIFIC PROJECTS OR ACHIEVEMENTS, IN CREATING BENEFITS FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES?

A: The aim for all the projects is for them to be sustainable and that the ownership then ultimately is embraced by the school. Where this has been most effective is with the awards recognition programme, as we have seen how the school has embraced this and started to run with this programme themselves. There are many other highlights where individuals come up to me and give me a heartfelt thank you for caring for them. Just this Saturday I stopped with some friends at Home of the Chicken Pie and one of the learners from the school greeted me and was excited to tell me how he is working on the weekends to earn some extra money and really appreciates all I do for the school to motivate them.

 

Q: WHAT KIND OF CONSIDERATIONS DO YOU TRY TO KEEP IN MIND, FOR EACH SOCIAL UPLIFTMENT PROJECT YOU EMBARK ON? AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH OTHERS WHO WANT TO DO THE SAME? 

A: It takes a long time to build trust with a community, and only after a couple of years do you start seeing a difference with your investment of time and resources. If you want to make a lasting impact you don’t always need a lot of money but you do need dedication and commitment to see it through for at least five years. Communities need to be properly empowered – they don’t need handouts, as this keeps them in a position of being dependant. Often middle to upper income-group people don’t understand or have empathy for the underprivileged and their situations, which are often wrought with so many challenges such as broken homes, lack of basic services, abuse, poverty, lack of education etc. But if you can plant an idea, which is literally a seed of hope, and then build on that by giving them skills and tools to help build their own future and help them realise the value in that, then you can achieve something far greater in the end.

Another important factor when embarking on a project is to have a clear vision and objectives and to be able to measure those. All funding must be accounted for and reports need to be created for the projects that show clear outcomes. Holding the recipients of the projects accountable to you is also important, and this is done through ongoing status reports and check-systems that are put in place.

However, the most important element that I haven’t spoken on is love. Giving back is not about ticking the box, but it’s about doing everything you do with a large dose of love. People change when they realise you are doing something because you really care, it’s not about a pat on the back for us but, rather, it’s about giving with love – that will be remembered and appreciated.

 

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However, the most important element that I haven’t spoken on is love. Giving back is not about ticking the box, but it’s about doing everything you do with a large dose of love. People change when they realise you are doing something because you really care, it’s not about a pat on the back for us but, rather, it’s about giving with love – that will be remembered and appreciated.

 

Q: POTTERS HAND HAVE BEEN EGF MEMBERS FOR MANY YEARS NOW. ASIDE FROM THE COMMUNITY BENEFITS YOU WORK HARD TO DELIVER, AS DISCUSSED ABOVE, WHAT OTHER THINGS HAVE YOU INITIATED TO MAKE POTTERS HAND A MORE SUSTAINABLE COMPANY?

A: As the founder and managing director of the company, I am passionate about creating a greener and more sustainable planet. If you follow me on Facebook, you will see that I’m an activist. Not only do I challenge people in my personal capacity to eat healthier and more sustainably, but I hold everyone around me accountable to their brands.

Recently I have also challenged various venues where we host events to be more sustainable, as well as get their B-BBEE scores up to scratch because 80% of our budgets often sit in venue related costs. Let’s do away with plastic altogether and use refillable glass containers, let’s all recycle and use local produce and farmed foods. My voice may not be that loud, but the more of us that start to speak up, that will make a difference.

The other dream I have is that Potters Hand lives beyond me. This company is not about making me rich, but it is about benefitting and empowering and enriching the lives of all involved there. I love our team and we are passionate about transformation in our industry. We are 31% black female owned and our employees have been offered shares in the company. This is my idea of sustainability, that hopefully in a short while, my employees will own and run the company without me because they have been empowered on every level to.

 

Q: IF YOU COULD WAVE A MAGIC WAND AND CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE SA MICE EVENTS INDUSTRY TO MAKE IT MORE SUSTAINABLE (SOCIALLY, ENVIRONMENTALLY OR EVEN ECONOMICALLY), WHAT WOULD THAT ONE THING BE?

A: To me it does still seems that there are a handful of event agencies that benefit from the larger tenders that our country bid for. I feel that this needs to be opened up and encourage smaller event companies to collaborate together and know that they stand a real chance. More importantly, is that previously disadvantaged event companies need a chance and may lack some of the finer skills, however if they partner with a more experienced company they would not only be empowered through the process but grow enormously in their skills. Lastly it would really be great to create more exposure for broader South African events companies through the various industry bodies to hosted buyers and businesses around the world.

 

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To find out more about Potters Hand Activations, you can view its profile here or visit its Facebook pageTwitter profile or Instagram profile.

You can also find Katja on LinkedIn.

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