Clothing manufacturer Lisa Mathys in her workshop.

Stitching her way to a dream with shrewd money management

Lisa Mathys single-handedly built a successful clothing manufacturing business, but like all entrepreneurs, she is vulnerable to cash-flow problems. She needs credit to see her through the bad times and capital to keep expanding her enterprise, which is why she’s now an enthusiastic member of a savings group.

Based in Nababeep, Northern Cape, this 51-year-old owner of Lisa’s Clothing, a company that employs five people, has already dealt with several life challenges. A single mother of two children who are now adults, Mathys started a small needlework business in 2001 with two sewing machines, making curtains, dresses, wedding gowns and mending clothes for local people. Over time she employed more staff, bought additional machinery and built a workspace at her mother’s house. She currently supplies school tracksuits and dresses to nine schools in the region.

Like with most entrepreneurs, her success came about through seeing a need, seizing the opportunity, and working hard. “My dad died in 2001 and I had to come home to support my mom,” she explains. “By then I had a bit of experience in needlework because I had worked in a factory in Cape Town and was a dressmaker at Nardus, a wedding gown manufacturer in Springbok.

“In the factory, I tried everything — I was what they called a spare. I worked on all the machines and stations, filling the gap when someone was absent from work. I knew how to make a pair of pants from start to finish. I learned everything there was to learn by being open to whatever they gave me to do.”

Mathys saved money and bought two sewing machines. In the evenings she made dresses for people and saved the money she made. “When my dad died I came home with my sewing machines and continued with dressmaking and curtains, but it didn’t pay much However, I saw that schools ordered their tracksuits from Cape Town and delivery was slow, with the clothes often arriving when winter was over.”

The businesswoman in her rose to the occasion. She made sample tracksuits and took them to local schools, who immediately placed orders, and from there she hasn’t looked back. Because tracksuits are seasonal she needed to find other work for the slow times, so two years ago she ventured into manufacturing school dresses. She now supplies eight local schools, which keeps her business busy during summer too.

This is where SaveAct comes in, since running a business is not always plain sailing.

“2018 wasn’t a good year,” she says. “I struggled financially, my children didn’t work and I had to keep my business afloat by buying on credit. You have to pay salaries, buy materials and electricity is expensive.”

In September 2018 she joined a new savings group called Angels that was starting up in Nababeep. Five months down the line she has nothing but praise for it.

“I have to buy material before February price hikes kick in. I borrowed money from Angels which I know I can double up and repay, and then put money away. I want to buy a buttonhole machine which I need for the dresses, and it costs R18000. I have to put money away for that and I need operational money, especially for material.”

Her vision is to set up a clothing manufacturing factory employing 30 people, and she’s confident she can achieve this. “For me to reach my dream, we will have to save more, but I know I’ve made a start.”

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