Buyelani Jiyane is a formidable woman, and proof that reinvention has no age! Mrs Jiyane, who lives in Msinga, currently runs three successful business, with a new one budding; and her fifth one having been bequeathed to her son.
Mrs Jiyane joined SaveAct in 2018 and was in one group until this year. Her group saves shares worth R100 per share, with a maximum of five shares per month. Members can borrow money from the group, with the amount dependent on the cash available at the end of each meeting, and how many shares each person has. Because Mrs Jiyane has always been a diligent savings member, she can take out bigger loans, which she puts towards the three businesses that were running when she joined SaveAct, in order to help them grow.
Mrs Jiyane has had her tuckshop ‘Zamukwanda’ (try to grow) for two decades, where she sells everything from household goods to food. Living near a local primary school, she saw that making vetkoeks would be a lucrative business, as every other entrepreneur around was selling the same thing she was – chips and sweets. She would knead dough by hand, waking up early to make sure they were ready in time for the 7:30 start of school. This, however, was taxing on her body and she always ran out of stock. She decided to use her first share-out to buy a dough-mixing machine for those very reasons, which alleviated some stress. “The machine was a great investment,” she shared. The more she made, the more she stocked up. She also hired a shop assistant, as the business was growing from strength to strength due to her tenacity and smart choices.
Mrs Jiyane also uses the machine for her baking business when she has a large order, but she usually uses her house stove and baking trays for orders. She used some of her savings money to buy newer baking trays. That is the second business. Mrs Jiyane realised that baking could also go with cooking, and the catering business was born. This was another venture started before becoming a savings member. Once she joined a savings groups, she added to her stock of stoves, crockery, cutlery, serving dishes and the like. “Now, when I get hired, I have everything! Whatever I need for the event, I have it. I no longer hire anything out, and my helpers are never in need,” she said, referring to the people she hires to help her with an event. She hires two employees, and the three of them can cater and serve an event easily.
After her son lost his job during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mrs Jiyane saw it as an opportunity to pursue a venture she had always had in mind, and leave the running of the tuckshop to him. “He lost his job, then his wife lost her job. I said you know what my child? You guys take the shop, I’ll find something else to do,” and so she bequeathed the shop, and whatever profits it made, to him. The shop interior has since been revamped, and continues to thrive. Part and parcel of the new energy of the business, her son suggested adding ice-cream to their offerings, as children love it so much. Mrs Jiyane saw his vision, and with some of the funds from one of her share-outs, she bought an ice-cream machine. Her son found a shop that sells milk for ice-cream especially, and so began their ice-cream parlour dream.
“Selling ice-cream was going so well! But then consistent loadshedding came. The constant on and off resulted in us having to fix the machine because it stopped working. We did, because we believe in that side of the business. But the loadshedding is relentless now, so we just keep it off and we will see how we do in the future with the electricity, because we don’t want to stop with that. No, never!” she said resolutely.
She moved on from the tuckshop to her pillow-making business. “I’d always thought I could do this. It seemed easy, and I thought why not? I now have all the time in the world! And so, she did. Like all Msinga residents, Mrs Jiyane is cognizant of climate change, and works to make sure that she and her family have the smallest possible carbon footprint they can muster. She knew that the pillow business would have to align with these values. This led to her and her family researching the best way to do this – which is how she found a factory that sold scraps of all types of puffer jackets, and the jacket stuffing. That is the stuffing she uses for her pillows, which now have the added benefit of being quite sturdy and able to stay puffy, no matter how many times they are rested on.
Mrs Jiyane sells various sized pillows, ranging from R35.00 to R100.00. She stuffs 10 to 20 pillows a day, and constantly sells out. When we visit her, it is mid-month and she is on her second restock of the month, having a few more pillows to stuff. She shows us that she also buys material in bulk, which she sews into whatever size cover she needs, leaving a small pocket of space from which she can insert her stuffing. “It’s small, I know. But this means I can stuff it to the max, and I can easily close the hole by sewing by hand,” she laughs.
All this wasn’t enough to keep a busy mind like Mrs Jiyane’s fully occupied though, and so on one of the materials runs, she saw shiny material and figured “I could make curtains from that. Why not try?”. This was also a skill Jiyane worked on, and she now makes curtains in addition to everything else. So far, she only has one type of curtain, using one type of material, as she was still testing it all out. This is something she wants to continue and improve upon however, especially because there’s a huge market for it in her community.
Ten years ago, Mrs Jiyane had invested money into shares at SARB, and decided to cash in. With the profits from her decade-long investment, she added some of her savings to the amount, and one of the things she did with the funds was to buy a van for her family. This is the van that her son now uses for his trips back and forth to all her service providers for her businesses. She said her next venture will be poultry.
“No one, especially around here, can deny the impact Lindelwa Majola (the field Officer who introduced the savings model to the community) and SaveAct have had around here. And if they do, they either don’t know or they’re lying. We’re flying high due to SaveAct! We’re flying high,” she said.