Entrepreneurs can sew success in clothing sector

All zipped up: The clothing and textile industry does not require a large capital outlay or highly skilled employees to get it going.
All zipped up: The clothing and textile industry does not require a large capital outlay or highly skilled employees to get it going.
Johannesburg - Female entrepreneurs need to start thinking beyond fashion design if they want to tap into opportunities in the clothing and textile industry, says Nicole Moonsamy, an Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) dealmaker in the sector.

She was speaking last week’s at the Women in Manufacturing Conference hosted by the IDC in Sunninghill, Johannesburg.

Moonsamy said the clothing and textile sector had a massive advantage over other manufacturing businesses because it did not require a large capital outlay or highly skilled employees to get going.

“I work in a sector that has the ability to do something most manufacturers can’t do – I can create cheap jobs,” she said.

She said there were abundant opportunities that women could tap into, and the IDC was keen to help them identify those opportunities.

“Price points are distorted by retailers that have brought in unfair pricing practices, and the sector has become unsexy. No one wants to be a seamstress, a shoemaker, a pattern maker; but that is where the opportunities lie. We don’t have any textile manufacturers,” she said.

There is a sizeable appetite to fund new manufacturing ventures in this field, but what it lacks are female entrepreneurs with enough drive to make it a success, Moonsamy said.

“What we lack are bold female entrepreneurs; people who are willing to follow their passion and take the next step and be the person they always wanted to be. The opportunities are great and the willingness from financiers is there. It’s easy to invest in machinery, we just need the people to invest in.”

Investing in clothing and textiles is a no-brainer because everyone has to make a decision about what to wear every day. However, the influx of cheap textiles from China and other parts of the world has weakened the sector, making it even more onerous for new entrants into the industry. But the increasing interest in creating clothes in South Africa, driven by fashion-conscious consumers, has created more opportunities.

Another area where there is potential for female-owned businesses to get involved is in the components sector in the automotive industry.

Honey Mamabolo, the CEO of Thebe Unico, which manufactures performance chemicals, said she acknowledged that sometimes barriers to entry were high in this sector, so she advised female entrepreneurs to consider entering the industry at a noncore level.

“You don’t need to enter a company by going into the core business. You can enter through support and through noncore business. You can learn about that business value chain; you are closer and can build relationships. You can be supported by the very big brother to grow your business,” she said.

Mamabolo said the chemicals industry was dominated by large, white-owned family businesses, making it ripe for entry by black female entrepreneurs. For this to happen, however, aspiring female entrepreneurs must raise their hands and ask for help. Beyond that, they must bring projects that are fundable to make it easier for financiers to help.

“When doors are closed, they will only be opened to those who are bold enough to knock,” she said.

In partnership with the IDC

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