So successful is his enterprise, Sah’s Fashion House, that he has become an inspiration in the suburb. Khumalo, 25, from Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal is now teaching other young people skills on designing clothes.
“When I started running this small shop, I designed clothes for a few clients. Then I started getting more orders.
“And then some people approached me to teach their children. That is why I started offering students designing lessons,” says Khumalo. He is trying to register his business as a skills training enterprise.
Khumalo currently has 16 students. Last year, 10 students completed their short course in fashion design and most of them are running their own businesses. A few are tailors working from home.
“My students are from Soweto and Alexander townships. Some are not paying fees because they cannot afford them. After completing their studies, I assisting them in starting their own businesses. My business focus is to empower young people like myself,” he says.
Khumalo also allows the graduates to use his facilities and sewing machines to start their own business.
This feat is a far cry from his childhood. Khumalo was raised by his grandmother after his mother abandoned him while he was young. He did some odd jobs such as herding cattle. “When my uncle who worked in Joburg lost his job, he came back home and I asked him to pay for my studies as a fashion designer. “He couldn’t understand why a man would want to do what he called "a woman’s job".
"One day I showed him a designer dress in a magazine that cost R7 000, and told him it was designed by a man. He was convinced and used his last money to pay for my fees at UMfolozi College in Esikhawini."
In 2013, he dropped out of his studies while in his second year when his uncle couldn’t afford the fees. It was then that he moved to Joburg, where he started his small business in Hillbrow.
“Fortunately, I had grasped everything to be learnt. After designing my first shirt, I used the money to come to Joburg,” says Khumalo.
He started working as a waiter until he was approached by a friend from Cameroon, who was a tailor.
“I worked under him until I could buy my first machine.”
Soon, locals took notice and a few residents asked him to teach their children design and tailoring. Khumalo says he will soon be launching his own design label and get it accredited.
“I hope that in five years this company will be recognised as one of South Africa's big fashion houses,” he says.
Like any other business, he has to grapple with some problems as his enterprise grows. “As the classes (enrolment) continue to increase, I am finding it difficult to provide sewing machines for each student.”
So what advice does he have for young people who want to be businesspeople?
“The youth should stop complaining about unemployment and sitting at home doing nothing... They should start getting skilled in vocational jobs such as plumbing and fashion designing.”
Among his graduates is Maryclaret Mabaso, 24, who is now producing her own clothing line. “I am able to design and do patterns and sewing, and am already taking orders.”