Durban — Here’s an alarming statistic: according to statistics from South African Market Insights, quoted in an article by Proudly South African, South Africa’s contribution to manufacturing sales has declined from R7 billion in 1998, to R2 billion in January 2022. This highlights the negative impact fashion imports have on the economy and the need for more entrepreneurs to enter the sector.
Local manufacturing businesses like Hannah Grace Maternity Wear have the potential to make a major contribution to the economy – which is why founder Lyndall Moodley is proud of the growth her company has achieved, and the employment it has been able to provide.
“The reality is the high prevalence of fashion imports comes at a price local manufacturers cannot beat. This is why it is so vital that local manufacturers like Hannah Grace receive support,” says Laurence Woodburn, Moodley’s mentor at business development experts Fetola.
“Not only do local manufacturers provide employment; they also benefit the green economy and build a sense of pride and innovation. This all provides economic benefits by creating value and multiplying the base Rands invested,” he said.
Strategic business moves.
The trajectory followed by Hannah Grace Maternity wear stands as a case in point. Moodley established her company seven years ago when she saw there was a gap in the market for locally produced boutique clothing. Initially business was slow and highly competitive because she was directly competing with loads of fashion retailers that sell cheap imports.
However, this changed when she decided to grow her business’s pattern bank by buying more than 200 patterns belonging to another local maternity wear company that had gone bankrupt. It seemed a small step at the time, but with the Covid-19 pandemic bringing about a boom in e-commerce, Moodley put her business in the right position to service the demands of a growing market which preferred online shopping to malls. She later brought all manufacturing services in-house, in a bid to grow the business.
A manufacturing entrepreneur is creating jobs.
“We started with just two machinists working in my husband’s factory garage, making simple garments.”
Today, Hannah Grace’s manufacturing arm has grown, with the company now providing full-time employment for 11 people, along with five contractors.
Importantly, Hannah Grace Maternity Wear hasn’t merely provided jobs. The company has a strong stance on fair employment and believes in paying sustainable salaries. Moodley recognises that women are often the breadwinners in South African families – therefore, their employment leads to an improvement in the quality of life for entire communities.
Making clothes from offcuts is an environmentally conscious move.
One of Moodley’s proudest achievements is incorporating sustainability into her business. She uses unused offcut materials from the Hannah Grace Maternity Wear collection to create clothes for her other brand, Baby Warehouse. Moodley notes that ethical and environmentally conscious manufacturing practices are important to her because one of her reasons for building her own business was to create a legacy for her children.
Small businesses have the potential to expand internationally.
The stage is now set for Hannah Grace’s further expansion.
“Our growth plan is to open pilot stores in KwaZulu-Natal, and we also obtained our export licence and are ready to start exporting our locally manufactured goods,” she said proudly.
Additionally, the company expanded its operations to include luxury sleepwear and baby goods, under the brands PJ Warehouse and Baby Warehouse.
“This was made possible by the growth of our manufacturing arm, which now also produces garments for other companies looking for boutique Cut Make and Trim offerings.”
Hannah Grace Maternity Wear is a reminder that entrepreneurship, together with strategic business moves, can be used to fight against cheap fashion imports that are stifling economic growth.
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