2. Vendor Mentor Pilot

Day: Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Last Tuesday, we met with most of the website platform team to discuss the layout and logistics. The web developer, Carl, was unable to attend that meeting so the meeting today was to give us a chance to meet with Carl. As the web developer, he would be able to tell us if our ideas are feasible and to provide input in making the website better as well. Unfortunately, Carl was unable to meet with us. His associate, Gys, met with us instead. Additionally this meeting was a progress meeting with Scott and Steve to discuss the progress of the project.

Cast of Characters

  • Trudy Vlok – Managing Director of The Big Issue South Africa
  • Chelsea Clark-James – American volunteer with background in street papers, film, and production
  • Gys Muller – Website Developer from the company Fireworks
  • Scott – WPI Advisor
  • Steve – WPI Advisor


The Big Issue South Africa Offices


When we entered The Big Issue Trudy was still in her tech meeting with the tech team. We waited for a few minutes and then saw Harry and Neelan leave the meeting signaling the beginning of ours. We entered the room and were greeted by Trudy and a man named Gys who is part of the team developing the vendor website. We started the meeting by talking with Gys about our plans for including content onto the template that we created. He seemed very excited about the template we created and wanted us to add content to it so that he could add it into the proposal for fundraisers.

There were a lot of marketing ideas flying around during the meeting as well. An idea that Gys had was an instagram campaign. For this a customer would take a picture with their vendor and post it to instagram with a certain hashtag. These photos could then be added to the photo gallery that is on the vendors’ webpage. Neelan and his social media team are putting together the social media aspect; connecting it to facebook, twitter or instagram for example.

Scott and Steve arrived to the meeting while we were discussing the tech aspect of the project, so we finished that then dived into discussing the vendors. An idea that our team really wants to fulfill is going to the vendors’ home and taking pictures and videotaping them there. Trudy and Scott both agreed that that is a great idea and a good way to connect even more with the vendors. It would be good to meet with a group of vendors who live in either the same or close by township and travel with them to their homes from The Big Issue. While we are there it would be good for the vendors to take pictures of their homes and even other vendors’ homes to get a first eye view of what the vendors see. It will be interesting to see what they take pictures of; if they focus on the positives of their home or the negative or everything.

The meeting then turned to discussing the vendor mentor program. Trudy and the team definitely agreed that vendors who would be good for this are Themba, Xolani, and Lavista. However, we would need to add a woman to the mix because women learn from women. That will be a challenge because most of the women only speak a little English, not enough to explain this whole concept to. The vendor mentor program will be used to explain this project and the goals for it in a smaller group so it is easier for the vendors to grasp its concept. Once they learn it, they will be able to teach the concept to others in a way that they understand. If vendors start to understand the responsibility of bringing in content every week and updating their webpage now, this project will be sustainable. With the vendor mentors, they will be able to instill this into the other vendors and remind them and just be a go to for others. Also with this smaller group we can get more input into the project from the vendors themselves. We want this to be their project as much as ours because it is their stories that are being told. With this smaller group it will be easier to communicate ideas with them and help them learn and gain responsibility for this project.


The team is excited to have the opportunity to work with Gys. Listening to his ideas for how we can make the website platform better is very exciting. He was a bit intimidating because he is the creator of this website platform. However, he seems happy with our template and seems willing to work with us. An exciting development is that Trudy seems willing to try the vendor mentor program out. Now we have to find the best way to implement that so that it is sustainable and beneficial. It is nerve wrecking because we do not know if the vendors will want to do it. We fear that they will not want to take time away from their pitches, but we are willing to try and make it work. We really hope that some vendors will want to participate in the vendor mentor idea because we are really interested in learning more about these vendors’ lives and the stories they want to openly share with us.

Continue to Scene 3: Take Two