CAPE TOWN - Pinkie Luswazi, founder of Lus-pin Manufacturers, a fashion design business based in Mandalay, Cape Town, has turned her passion for design from a young age into a prosperous business despite the high risks inherent in operating in the small, medium and micro-enterprises(SMMEs) environment in townships.
Luswazi was last month named the top achiever at the Small Business Academy (SBA) development programme run by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).
Luswazi started her business in the Eastern Cape about 15 years ago and produces original lively street-style and formal wear, as well as décor items with a twist of Africa in the fabric and design.
Luswazi said she started the business out of passion when she was a Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Transkei (Unitra), now Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in the Eastern Cape. She later moved to KwaZulu-Natal in pursuit of her dream of becoming a clothing designer and enrolled at the Durban Institute for Clothing Design. She was headhunted in her final year to be one of the designers to design for ladies’ and children’s wear at KwaZulu-Natal’s leading clothing company, Kingsgate.
“When I started to work in Durban, I didn’t really have clients there and I realised that most of my clients came from the Eastern Cape. People would drive for five hours to Durban just to collect their items,” said Luswazi. “However, by then I was not really focusing much on doing business because I was still employed and very serious about actually acquiring more skills on what I have learned during my studies.”
She said she started looking for a place she could use as business premises before formally establishing the business in Mthatha after she was forced to leave Durban and move back home in the Eastern Cape because of her mother’s failing health.
“I found a small space and started with two small machines that I got as a present from my mother when I was a teenager. The business started to grow and after six months I moved out to a bigger space which had a workshop and a showroom, and the business really started to blossom after two years of being home.”
Luswazi moved to Cape Town in 2014 and immediately started doing market research in an effort to expand the business and to make it operable in both provinces, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
She started operating in Cape Town from her Mandalay home while she waited for her business premises which was being renovated in Khayelitsha, one of the largest townships in Cape Town. She said the business premises in the township will allow her to bring her products close to the people and also to employ more staff to work for the company.
Luswazi said she also believes that empowerment is the answer in uplifting the community. She is currently a project manager at Stitch 2 Stitch, a training facility for single unemployed mothers from various communities in and around Cape Town. The three-month training programme is focused on equipping unemployed women with computer literacy, sewing, craft and business skills.
She said her aim is to establish pattern-making, sewing and designing skills amongst unemployed women which will be beneficial to Lus-pin Manufacturers in the long-run as she will then have have trained staff to employ.
“It is such a fulfilling moment when I see employees or trainees whom I have trained over the years, progress,” she said.
Some of the people she had trained back home in the Eastern Cape are currently running their own businesses.
“To become part of the solution in terms of unemployment, even at a small scale, is key in creating change and brings me immense pleasure,” she added.
– African News Agency (ANA)