File picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA).
File picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA).

Sewing a way forward after retrenchment

By Nathan Adams Time of article published Jan 17, 2021

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Cape Town - After Esona Mtshengu was retrenched she taught herself to sew and watched YouTube videos for ideas before creating her own fashion business.

The Khayelitsha resident began MTS Accessories soon after she lost her job in the travel industry last year.

She said: “I was a travel co-ordinator and helped companies with travel incentives for their employees. If a corporate wanted to reward their top performers with a trip to somewhere in the world, I would co-ordinate that for them, as well as trips for high-end honeymooners, mostly American and UK-based families wanting to travel in the Southern African region.”

The lockdown hit the travel industry hard and by May, Mtshengu was unemployed.

She said: “I was retrenched and my last working day was April 30. When the company introduced the salary cuts I needed something that would supplement my salary, so I started getting items and reselling them to other people.”

Natural hair is one of the grooming and style trends she has always been keen on and this led her to start scouring the internet.

“My mom owned a domestic sewing machine and it was just collecting dust. I started watching YouTube videos, like how to make satin bonnets and hair protection stuff. Then I told my mom that we need to take the machine out; I wanted to try and make these products,” she said.

With her mom’s guidance she learnt how to thread a sewing machine and started to make the satin bonnets.

Mtshengu said: “I sold the items on Facebook Marketplace first and I’d post things on my Instagram page and WhatsApp status and my friends supported me.”

As the interest in her products grew, she knew that she needed to make a few sacrifices to continue to increase sales. “I sold my car and then bought a cheaper car because I still needed to do deliveries.”

As word spread about her satin bonnets, and more people started arriving on her doorstep, Mtshengu started making other products like the satin pillow cases, satin head wraps and scrunchies.

Today she not only sells her products to women who want a great quality satin product, but she also sells at wholesale prices to agents who want to market and resell her products.

“Selling wholesale was not planned, but I realised that so many people had lost their jobs that this was a great way for them to earn an income as well.”

She added: “Initially, I thought I could give my former colleagues the opportunity to buy from me and resell to make a profit but when I advertised it on Facebook there was a very good response from people.”

Mtshengu is working on sewing satin gowns which she hopes to offer to her clients soon, in time for Valentine’s Day. She wants to open a factory and provide employment for others.

Mtshengu described her clientele as young and fashion-savvy. In the future, she plans on creating a clothing line with fashion-forward items that she believes will be a hit with women.

Weekend Argus

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