The Guy Behind The African 'Tom's Shoes'-Style Notebook Company Reveals Why It's Good To Do Good

HumanWrit.es is the little square notebook company that is growing like gangbusters around South Africa - mainly on the back of its social contribution. For each ‘Writable’ that gets sold, the company gives back to society. Pierre du Plessis is the ‘CWO’ of HumanWrit.es, and is going to be talking at our next Heavy Chef event in Cape Town on design thinking and creating your ultimate mobile application. Originally from a design background, Pierre has shown to critical acclaim at Fashion Week, created award winning campaigns as a stylist, worked as brand curator for the SABS Design Institute, and freelanced as an art and creative director. The other half of his life is in philosophy and spirituality. He leads a contemplative faith community in the city of Cape Town and he is also a published author. Fred Roed, CEO of Heavy Chef, spoke to Pierre in the lead up to the event on the 22 October.

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Pierre, tell us the basic concept of Humanwrit.es?

For every notebook someone buys for their ideas, we give a child a pack of 5 story books to nurture their own.

You didn't have to be a social entrepreneur - you could have just sold notebooks. Do you think altruism in business is becoming mandatory for success in the future?

I believe in doing good, and that business should do good. I don't believe true altruism can ever be mandatory, it has to come from an authentic place, but yes I do think entrepreneurs have to think carefully about their intention. The world is tired of greed.

You come from a fashion background - how does this reconcile with the life of an entrepreneur and professional speaker?

Fashion isn't art, and it isn't design, and it isn't craft. Fashion fits somewhere in between or in a category of it own. Fashion for me is a conversation, a continuous conversation that designers and brands have with the world. It has taught me to remain tapped into the zeitgeist, to keep the conversation going in whatever medium I'm using whether that be business or keynote speaking.

You're clearly passionate about design. Do you think it's possible to be successful without design discipline - or at least some intent towards design thinking - in today's world?

No.

I actually really wanted to just end the answer there, because it is completely beyond me that NO needs an explanation.

It should be obvious, but alas it is not. Every single thing is designed, nothing that humankind has made has not been designed. Bad design will break your business. Good design and design thinking is fundamentally about the user. Design is the reply to a need, as opposed to art that is the need to reply. If people are using your product or services, or if they struggle to use it, it is never their fault. It is badly designed, and will not meet their need.

Pierre, you're a speaker, a published author, an entrepreneur and, somehow, a devoted family man. What's the secret to balance, or 'harmony' as Jeff Bezos would put it ?

I'm glad I'm in the same boat as Bezos, I prefer the term harmony. Balance to me talks about making something less and other things more, I don't like that. Harmony is about the different aspect being in tune with one another, all tapped into a common base melody. The clearer the melody, the easier it is to create other harmonies around it. The trick for me is to find a golden thread that runs through all my life, work, family, everything, and to always tap into that first. My base melody is just one word, 'towards'. I want my life to be about moving towards others, never away.

Find out more about Pierre here, and book tickets to his Heavy Chef event here.