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Paul Robson developed an app to help bring his community together and to boost the local economy for the small businesses in St Francis.


St Francis, South Africa (30 November 2020) – Bad apples, the world has many but what it also has, is some of the very best damn apples ever! Ok so we got carried away with the analogy of the apple but there really are some incredible humans on this planet!

Meet Paul Robson, the man who created a free app so that small businesses in his community could survive the economic lockdown.

It all started when Paul met Catherine Falconer. Catherine has a small business called ‘The Green Box’ delivering a selection of groceries but the lockdown had made things difficult. That was until she met Paul, one of her newer clients.

“The idea of “The Green Box” evolved and began as a seed planted in South Sudan where I used to live and work. We as a team lived in the Eastern Equatorial Mountains of South Sudan in mud houses with no electricity or running water. Our team leader together with the help of some teammates made standardized shopping lists of what was available at the Kenyan border markets. We would tick what we wanted on the list with our money and the truck and a few team members would collect the food items every two weeks. This was how we did our shopping.

In 2017 I returned with my family to South Africa and we decided to live and settle in St Francis Bay. The community here is incredible and I started a “WhatsApp” group asking them about this idea and what they think it should be called. They loved the idea of being able to order fresh food items each week from an emailed shopping list. They wanted it to support local farmers, as much as possible organic, and most importantly reducing plastic packaging working towards a greener environment. We then embarked on the journey with local mostly organic farmers supplying the Green Box. We pack the farm produce in wooden boxes hand made by one of our locals and deliver to our clients the same day. This was going well at the start of the year. All orders were coming in via WhatsApp or excel spreadsheets and it took a long time to put all the orders together.

Then lock down happened 2020. As I was delivering milk to a new client, Paul, he asked if he could help me and suggested the idea of an App and pivot tables. This was all new to me but I was ready to receive help. The Lekka App transformed our business and our lives. I don’t work alone, Pearl now helps manage the Green Box together with her husband and Setu who support her. The Lekka App has made my life easier as well as my clients. Ordering and putting orders together is all done electronically, with ease. I have also been able to put a lot more local produce from our farmers, bakers, jam makers, Butchers and so much more on the Lekka App. So I end this 2020 with a thankful heart, saying actually its been a LEKKA year!”

Paul built the Lekka App on the foundation of supporting local (and lekka) small businesses.

“I have no idea how it happened, but at some point, just before lockdown, I became a Greenbox customer. Catherine was taking orders via WhatsApp and eMail, and after a couple of weeks of watching all the messages, I wondered how on earth she manages it all. Then I started seeing all the adverts on Facebook from people trying to sell their wares. With the local market closing due to lockdown it suddenly dawned on me that our local artisans no longer had a place to sell their goods. I started to do some research around platforms like Uber and Mr Delivery and realised that no technology platforms are serving rural communities, and I wondered to myself what it would take to build something for them. On the 9th May I put together a diagram of how I saw the ecosystem and how we could use technology to bring a community of buyers and sellers together on one platform, the idea being the shops share all their customers as they would in a market.

I reached out to James and Shainal (our other founding members) and took them through my thoughts and they were keen to help. We realized at the outset that time were tough and we couldn’t charge for what we were doing but we believed if we could make an impact on our village, and if we could scale that impact to other villages then there was value in it for us too – but we had to prove we could make an impact and add value to the lives of our communities first.”

The App is now a portal for many small businesses that never had the opportunities to branch out before. It gives the residents of St Francis a very real and user-friendly market place to access local produce and support the very businesses that help keep the local economy turning.

As the platform grows, it supports more and more small businesses, local farmers and artisans. One of these is Shem. Shem is one of the youngest farmers benefitting from the app’s creation. He supplies Catherine from The Green Box with sprouts and was able to form his own business called SPROUT.

Shem now earns an income doing something he loves! Catherine’s business has been able to double in size and Paul gets to sit back and watch his community flourish.

All this because one man decided to build an app to support local business. So while many may feel the world is full of bad apples, you need only look to people like Paul and realise there is so much good you may be missing out on!

It takes one person to change a life, and Paul just happens to be trying to change many!

You can find out more about Lekka via their Facebook here.

Sources: Lekka – Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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