Johannesburg, 14 March 2017 – Established in 2016 by Francina Pholoane, Lebone Sewing Co-op is a sewing business that makes a variety of products including backpacks using upcycled fabric, curtains and dresses to name a few. Pholoane used to spend her days at home in Diepsloot doing alterations with a domestic sewing machine. She admits that it was hard for her to make ends meet. In 2015, she enrolled in a fashion design programme facilitated by Riversands Incubation Hub and the University of Johannesburg. Little did she know that this was the beginning of an amazing journey.
Following the programme, Pholoane returned to her normal life. However, a couple of months later, her life changed when she was invited to participate in the Riversands Upcycling Programme in partnership with Coca-Cola South Africa. The programme provides a platform for seamstresses to develop their technical skills, build their business acumen and access new markets. The women in the programme benefit from a secure working environment, industrial machinery and exposure to new designs and techniques. They have free rein to create and market their own designs and product lines. The mother of two did not hesitate – she grabbed the opportunity with both hands – and the rest is history.
Pholoane gets emotional when describing the impact the programme has had on her life. “Coke has changed my life. I am now able to support my family. I am getting more orders and am making more money than before,” she says.
She can’t help but chuckle when talking about how hard it was for her to use an industrial machine when she first started on the programme – nowadays, she is able to use the machine with ease. Besides learning to use an industrial machine, Pholoane says she has learnt about other important aspects of running a sustainable business such as costing, bookkeeping, invoicing and dealing with customers in a professional manner. She dreams of growing her business so it employs those without jobs. She also plans to give back by teaching others to learn to sew.
By Simangele Mzizi