By: Tebogo Mokwena
When Nomsa Mkhonza’s mother-in-law taught her how to make dresses, she reluctantly learned as it was not her cup of tea. However, it turned out that the skill was invaluable because when she lost her job in 2012 and had no way of making a living, she started making clothes. Mkhonza told Vutivi News that her business, Bomsa Trading and Projects, was started in 2013. “My mother-in-law taught me how to make traditional clothing because that is what she was doing her whole life,” she said.
“When I lost my job, I went back home to KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga to start the business,” Mkhonza admitted that it was hard at first, as she had to navigate her way around the industry. “It became easier with each passing year,” she said. “I funded the businesses by requesting customers to pay a deposit. I would then take the deposit and purchase material which I would use to make the clothing.” Mkhonza specialises in traditional dresses, traditional shirts and trousers for men, and wedding gowns, and also does alterations.
With her one employee, they serve KwaMhlanga and surrounding areas. Mkhonza told Vutivi News that she believed it was important to have a skill. She passed this belief to her children, and as a result, she helped her daughter establish Qhakaza Mbali Trading and Projects last year. It also specialises in traditional attire. “I want to teach the youth, as I did my children, the importance of developing a skill they can use to make a living anywhere in the world,” she said. “If we take Covid-19 for example, many young people lost their jobs, and as a result, they struggled to make ends meet.”
Mkhonza said that while the pandemic had a negative impact on their business, they managed to stay afloat. “Because there were no weddings or events, we did not get many orders and it was difficult to remain open,” she said. “However, the Department of Tourism helped us by ordering face masks from our business.” And she says she has much to be thankful for. She won an award for the Best Traditional Outfit at the South African Traditional Music Achievement Awards last year.
She also walked away with R100,000 at a competition hosted by Mzimari Productions in 2017. Her dream is not only to open her own clothing store but to also teach young children how to make traditional dresses. She currently gives classes to adults but aims to have an accredited academy where her students can be certified.