With more people than ever launching businesses while they’re in the midst of their studies, the trend is taking hold among young South African women
We chat to 35-year-old Itumeleng Matlhaku, who is currently juggling running her own fashion studio (DeepMoon Fashions) and online store, motherhood, studying for a BA degree and developing a business plan for an NGO. Matlhaku’s intense work ethic and patience have given her an edge.
In 2002, she was a fashion graduate who’d just moved to Johannesburg in the hope of building a successful career in fashion. However, just as she was succeeding in selling clothes she’d made to shops, she suddenly had to move back to her home town of Rustenburg in North West Province.
Matlhaku decided to use her savings to start DeepMoon Fashions. “We make and design formal and contemporary clothing, and also make couture dresses for matric farewells. I’ve dressed the Premier’s wife and a few MECs. There isn’t much of a celebrity culture here, so my shop’s become a hotspot for dignitaries and government employees,” she explains.
Wanting to expand her reach, Matlhaku presented to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) in 2008, which granted her R42 000 for the design and development of her online store. “People often complain that there’s no support or opportunities from government, but if you do some research, you’ll find there are many initiatives like Seda that are willing to help,” she says.
She got a further R25 000 from the Craft & Design Institute, another government initiative, and invested it in industrial machines to streamline her dressmaking process. DeepMoon Fashions has grown considerably since then and now has two permanent employees and a monthly turnover of R45 000-R80 000.
Matlhaku has also opened an agency for models and hostesses in the North West as another arm of DeepMoon. She trains them and places them at functions, PR activations and fashion shows to empower them with part-time employment.
In between all of this, she’s still found time to do a correspondence course towards a BA in community development. This is intended to give her grounding for an NGO concept she’s working on.
“I give up my Saturdays to go to classes and work after hours during the week. My courses include business and financial management, which has also been very helpful for operating DeepMoon more effectively,” she says.
It’s all an intensive balancing act and she concedes there have been occasions when she’s been stretched to the limit. “Sometime last year, looking after my six-month-old baby alongside everything else I was doing, simply became too much. I even had to take my child to work a few times. I fell very ill and my employees had to come to the hospital to give me updates. It was just overwhelming,” she recalls.
Matlhaku’s since prioritised her health by taking things slower, delegating tasks and finding a good nanny. She says her studies have taught her to work smarter, which helps her save time and balance things better. She now has her sights set on growing the agency and opening the NGO, while maintaining her DeepMoon Fashions clients. “I hope to showcase my offerings and network at international trade shows, with a view to exporting my clothes overseas regularly one day.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of DESTINY.