Elizabeth Bennett and her wife, Sara Luther, are co-owners of Africa Direct, which sells African art, trade beads and ethnic jewelry on a number of online platforms, including eBay and africadirect.com.
Their passion for African art and jewelry started when they moved to South Africa with their three children in 1994 after Nelson Mandela was elected President of the country.
To make the move possible, Bennett and her wife sold most of their belongings and put their home up for rent.
“We’d been active in anti-apartheid politics and we just couldn’t bear to not be there,” Bennett said.
While in the country, the family bought a used food panel van, converted it into a camper and traveled 15,000 miles through South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Swaziland. While they didn’t know it then, Elizabeth and Sara were laying the groundwork for their eventual business.
“We were buying quite a few things while we were there and shipping them home, and didn’t really have a plan for what we were going to do,” Bennett said.
Eventually, the couple decided to sell those pieces online. At the time, eBay was the best way to do so, the couple decided.
“eBay was an utter and complete game changer because it gave us a worldwide reach,” Bennett said.
Now years later, Elizabeth and Sara travel back to Africa occasionally, as well as work with African traders located in the U.S. Currently, they have thousands of masks, carvings, pieces of jewelry and more available for purchase.
With many transactions on eBay, the couple utilizes eBay for Charity to donate 10% of proceeds to African causes. One chosen charity is Shining Hope for Communities, which describes itself as a “grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing critical services for all, community advocacy platforms, and education and leadership development for women and girls.”
According to the company, eBay for Charity enables members of the eBay community to connect with and support their favorite charities in the U.S. and abroad. Every time a user buys or sells on eBay, they can contribute to fundraising goals.
“We were one of the earliest sellers to begin doing that and we have surpassed $147,000,” Bennett said. “We’re about to hit $150,000 in donations we’ve made.”
To this day, Africa Direct is still a small operation with the same vision, and an even bigger reach than ever before.
“Wonderful things happen when each of us cares enough to do just a little bit more than we did the last month or the last year,” Bennett said.