Sewing a way forward

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.

“I kind of saw it coming from December 2019 already because the tourism industry started suffering back then because we still had travellers coming in but those were people who already booked months in advance. We didn’t have any new clients making bookings for the months to come.”

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.”

She describes herself as particular and a person who knows what she likes, so she wasn’t happy reselling clothes that she would not wear.

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 and, with the rest of the money, I bought the equipment that we needed (another sewing machine) and also paid for sewing classes. I want to add even more products in the future.”

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, people I didn’t even know.”

Mtshengu is working on sewing satin gowns which she hopes to offer to her clients soon, in time for Valentine’s Day. She also started sewing classes to learn more skills and wants to grow her business. 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.

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