Stitching their way to a sustainable future
By Nerissa Card
What started as somewhat of a hobby for Mooi River’s Thuli Mncube has turned into a small business for members of her family.
Thuli, who works at Mooi Loft as a stock clerk, started Senzokuhle Community Projects in 2010 to help provide a source of income for those close to her.
Main picture: Showing off some of the goods they produce are, clockwise from back left, Zanele Mncube, Jellina Shezi, Gertrude Mncube, Gladys Mncube, Thuli Mncube, Zandile Manana, Noxolo Mncube, Thandi Mncube and Nonkululeko Ntombela.
“I was working at Mooi River Textiles at the time and noticed that the factory was throwing away yarn. My grandmother had taught me how to crochet, so I asked the factory if I could take the yarn. They agreed and I started crocheting bathroom products – mats, toilet mats, that kind of thing.
“I showed the factory what I was doing and they started to sell my products,” said Thuli.
“My husband’s family had been living and working on a potato farm in Kamberg. When the owner sold the farm, they were relocated to Mooi River, but had no jobs.
“To help them, we initially started a stokvel for December groceries, but I realised they needed something to keep them busy and bring in money.
“I was getting a lot of orders, but didn’t have much time, so it made sense to involve the women in the family. I taught them how to crochet and that’s how Senzokuhle started,” Thuli said.
Mooi Loft keeps samples of the products for order, as does Blueberry Café, near Nottingham Road. Their client list includes Hartford House and Sycamore Tree Houses.
After Mooi River Textiles closed down, Senzokuhle began sourcing its materials from Tai Yuen Textiles, under whose auspices Mooi Loft falls.
“We buy our yarn from the factory. It’s cheap, so we make a good profit, but we want to grow. Although the project is sustaining the community fairly well, most of the women still have to go out and work, but they can only find part-time work, which is not enough,” Thuli said.
“We would love it if the major retailers like Edgars, Woolworths and Mr Price stocked our products. I’m sure Woolworths would love the white bathroom mats we make,” she says with a smile.
“If we could get those stores to support us, the women would be able to completely sustain themselves and wouldn’t have to look for part-time work.”
The 10 women currently work from Gertrude Mncube’s house, but are hoping someone will sponsor a container for them. Sewing machines and overlockers would also be very welcome, as they also make pot holders and oven gloves out of discontinued fabric samples from Tai Yuen Textiles. Some are also sewing fleece dressing gowns and children’s jackets, the fabric for which they purchase themselves.
And Thuli says plans are afoot to start making bags.
So the next time you decide your bathroom needs a makeover, remember Senzokuhle. Their products are reasonable, they are local and you will be putting food on someone’s table or helping to educate a child.