Having a plan B saved Kgomotso Kgaswi’s business, Woke Motswana, from facing the same fate as its store, which closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Her fashion and craft business, which was performing well in Rustenburg, took heavy knocks, and as a result, Kgaswi had to go back to the drawing board. She told Vutivi News that she learned many painful lessons, which shaped her into the businesswoman she is today.
Kgaswi started her business with money she saved after spending 15 years in the corporate sector working in HR. She told Vutivi News she started her enterprise because while growing up she was exposed to style, fashion and fabrics as her grandmother owned her sewing business. She became passionate about her love of fashion and would sew clothes for community members.
“I realised during this time that there was a need for a retail textile store in the black community,” Kgwasi said. She resigned from her corporate job and started Woke Motswana in 2019. The company has three components – fashion, corporate clothing and craft, which entails clothes being made from beads. It also manufactures Personal Protective Equipment, corporate uniforms, traditional dresses and beaded bags.
Kgwasi said it was difficult to get funding for her business in the early years, despite her being fully compliant. “Financial institutions would require one to have two years’ bank statements for their businesses, and when I started out, I just didn’t have them because I wasn’t two years into the business,” she said. This is often a hurdle for SMMEs that apply for financing from banks.
She believes that she wasn’t prepared for the pandemic, and she suffered like many businesses in the textile sector. “We could barely afford to cover our operation costs and we had to shut the store down,” the businesswoman said. “We also found that marketing our business has proven to be a very expensive endeavour, so we needed to find a way,” Kgaswi said she then decided to sell merchandise directly to township residents.
And fortunately, her current corporate client base was also helping keep the business afloat. “The pandemic taught me not to think inside a box, always have a Plan B, and be aware of how you spend your money,” she said. Kgaswi also encouraged businesses to be fully compliant. “Because I am compliant, I am able to take advantage of opportunities available because it’s easy to apply and meet the set requirements because I am fully compliant,” she noted. “I would like to see myself own a factory, which can employ the youth in my city so that they too can feel the fulfilling experience of being able to create something from your imagination.”