Max Pienaar, owner of Savior Brand Co, does not stop expertly crafting a gorgeous leather bag while he explains his and wife’s quest to inspire through entrepreneurship and craft.
Residing on Station Road, Savior Brand Co with its raw, minimalist design and graffitied walls stands out among its neighbouring businesses on Umgeni Road. Although the outlet itself is only a year old, the spirit and mission of the brand was born four years ago out of Max and Nicki Pienaars’ desire to create long lasting quality products while helping orphaned, young adults.
“We opted for a place in the inner city that was accessible to everyone, including the people we are trying to help,” he says of the choice of location.
Ironically, Savior Brand Co has been one of the catalysts of a spontaneous urban regeneration that has seen the eclectic and somewhat bohemian enclave become a fashionable node.
In addition to its quirky coffee shop and factory operation, there’s a retail space where a wide range of timeless, functional leather products, home ware, designer brands and arty bits and bobs is displayed.
Over the past four years, Savior has grown from a small initiative operating out of the Pienaars’ Glenwood workshop to an operation where one can watch both great coffee and the finest quality leather products being made right before one’s eyes by Max and his fellow leather workers.
“Every face here has a story”, he says of the employees working at Savior Brand Co. From the upbeat barista to the young waitress financing her studies to those working the leather, every employee is an example for how the brand is changing lives.
“We wanted to provide a place where we could upskill people and offer them employment with integrity,” he adds.
Max and Nicki were inspired to create Savior Brand Co when they realised that many young adult orphans were facing a vulnerable and formative stage of their lives without the necessary support systems. As devout Christians, the couple and a few members from their church set out to make a difference by creating a self-sufficient business rather than an NGO surviving off donations.
“I’m a Christian. I wanted something to represent my belief system and still get people to think outside the box and question why they would want to support us. By supporting the brand, you are helping someone in need and becoming a saviour of your own right,” Max shares, explaining how they arrived at the somewhat unconventional name which is spelt American style.
With a commitment to quality and timelessness, Max and his team built their brand from the ground up, with craft and hope at its core.
He was working in the clothing industry when he started out, importing for chain stores. His vision was for Savior Brand Co to be the complete opposite to the mass produced, factory made items that he brought in en masse. The hand crafted leather items – belts, wallets, bags, iPad covers, guitar straps, bracelets – are made the old fashioned way and aimed at the top end of the market. Because the brand is so unique and its products so well made, they fetch premium prices and large numbers are sent overseas.
Even down to the very roasts used in the coffee shop, the brand is thoughtful and giving. The coffee which is sourced from a variety of places – including local roastery, Columbo, and the Long Miles coffee project, a Burundi coffee NGO helping farmers – goes beyond tasting good to doing good.
In addition to great coffee and quality shopping, Savior Brand Co also offers monthly workshops through which people can learn how to work leather. “We get all kinds of people, even lawyers and accountants, coming in and getting to do something with their hands. We have open discussions about how and why we do things. It’s a really cool forum for people to have fun while learning about our brand”, Max says.
And just when you thought you’d heard it all, there’s more to come. “There are plans for the future. I can’t tell you what they are. Some exciting things are brewing,” Max promises.