Pinkie Luswazi, 53, has turned her passion for design from a very young age into a thriving business in Mandalay, Cape Town and her company, Luspin Production designs, produces original lively street-style and formal ware as well as décor items with a twist of Africa in the fabric and design.
Her success has led her to be named the top student with the highest mark overall of the Small Business Academy (SBA) development programme run by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).
Bernice Pestana owner of C&B Autotrimmers in Stikland received the Distell Award for the Business with the Most Potential; Gugulethu’s Mthunzi (Roro) Stamper and owner of AZ Suka Transport & Gen Logistics, took the Award for the Most Improved Participant. Reakgile Pudumo from Gugulethu received the award for the Most Socially Responsible Business with his Ekasi-recycling initiative.
About the SBA programme
The SBA programme, a sponsored, nine-month course, refines the knowledge of small-business owners from previously disadvantaged communities in greater Cape Town aimed at empowering small business owners with business knowledge, networking opportunities and mentorship. Its major funders are the Distell Foundation and ABSA.
Pinkie believes empowerment is the answer in uplifting the community and she currently runs training programmes as a manager at Stitch 2 Stitch, the facility for single unemployed mothers. Her aim is to establish pattern-making, sewing and designing skills amongst unemployed women which in turn will provide Luspin Production with skilled staff to employ.
“It is such a proud moment when I see employees or trainees whom I have tutored over the years, progress. Some are even currently running their own businesses. To become part of the solution in terms of unemployment, even at a small scale, is key in creating change and brings me immense pleasure.”
Dr Marietjie Theron-Wepener, Head of the SBA programme, said that USB is incredibly proud of each participant for furthering their knowledge, sharpening their business skills and becoming leaders within their communities.
“Small businesses play a leading role in developing our country. According to a study undertaken by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and The Banking Association of South Africa over the last two years, the SME sector is estimated to contribute between 35%-45% and 50%-60% toward Gross Domestic Product.
“But the reality is also that not all SMMEs survive their first years. Typical hindrances include the inability to access funding, difficult social circumstances, poor market research, poor marketing and financial management practices and lack of access to vibrant markets. With this in mind, business education is fundamental in sustaining these small business owners. Institutions such as USB need to form partnerships with corporates to share their knowledge and skill set.
“By launching the SBA programme five years ago our aim was to fill the much needed gap for business education by engaging with small business owners, equipping them not only with knowledge, but also providing mentorship and exposing them to opportunities to engage with large corporates.”
Pinkie says that she so wished that she was exposed to the SBA programme earlier in her life.
“The SBA programme has had a tremendous impact on my business. If I had this kind of business resource when I first started out, Luspin Production would have progressed so much more. I have come to really understand the business side of things – simply having passion and talent is not enough to run a successful enterprise. I now have an effective marketing strategy, utilise social media, manage my finances with integrity and invest my finances with credible institutions.”
Although she is currently running her clothing design company from home, she has secured business premises in Khayelithsa which will see her outsourcing less work and employing more staff.
“My major challenge currently is suitable space which forces me to outsource some of the operations resulting in me having to compromise on the quality but that will soon be history once I have moved into my new business premises. And as with any small business, lack of financial resources can be crippling at times however I try to focus on my goal of running a fully-fledged design and production company and all my efforts and thoughts are geared to making it succeed.”
An entrepreneurial start
Pinkie grew up in Mthatha, Eastern Cape and at the age of 13 designed and stitched sleepwear for her siblings during school holidays. “I sold sweets at school to generate income to purchase fabrics and I used to unpick my old clothes and re-make them.”
It was during her studies towards a Bacherlor of Arts at the University of Transkei, that she was encouraged to pursue her dream of becoming a clothing designer so she enrolled at the Durban Institute for Clothing Design and was headhunted in her final year to be one of the designers to design ladies and children’s wear at Kwa-Zulu Natal’s leading clothing company, Kingsgate.
After five years she decided to start her own business and in 1997 with two machines gifted by her mother when she was still a teenager she started Luspin Production in Mthatha where she created dazzling wedding and ball gowns, traditional and easy to wear apparel. She relocated her business to Cape Town in July 2016 and her clientele is growing extensively. She is currently focusing on an exclusive denim range, showcased her clothes at the Xperience Fashion show at Kenilworth race course and sells her décor and clothing at a social market in Claremont.
Pinkie intimately knows the word ‘persevere’ and believes that although struggling is a barrier to achieving one’s dream, passion is the driving force that will allow one to succeed.
“Believing in yourself and discovering your unique offering will give you the edge no matter which industry you pursue. And I actively encourage people and small businesses to see their responsibility in creating a solution to the current poverty and unemployment rate. Give back – whether it is of your time or money, and see how your achievements become those of many.”
Entries are now open for the 2018 intake and interested small business owners need to apply online. Short-listed candidates will be invited for an interview and are required to complete an aptitude test. Visit www.usb.ac.za/sba/apply/wc for more information or contact Benjamin Matshoba at 021-9184379.