Like most people, dressmaker Khethiwe Sthomo was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, but then an opportunity arose. Under normal circumstances, she makes a living sewing smart dresses for the women of Mdwebu near Estcourt, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. That work stopped with lockdown but when masks became compulsory for all, this 51-year-old entrepreneur got busy.
Kethiwe is a motivated, positive person who joined her first savings group in 2018 because she wanted to make her business grow. Once she realised the value of saving and the financial training she was getting, she joined a second group in 2020.
After the lockdown was announced Kethiwe started making cloth masks and selling them for R20 each. At first, she was able to make 30 masks a day and sell them all, making R600 per day. As demand grew she was on the sewing machine day and night, making 50 masks and bringing in R1000 per day. With the money, she made her family was able to buy food and electricity, and because of what she had learnt in financial education she also put money aside for saving and paying off loans once groups were allowed to meet again.
One challenge she had was that fabric companies closed during the early stages of the lockdown and she was unable to purchase material to continue with her work when supplies ran out. Some of her orders had to wait until those companies reopened.
Her mask business continues to do well and she has been able to provide for her family’s needs. However, she says Covid-19 makes her feel helpless and she fears getting infected, as she doesn’t have much information about how this virus spreads. “It is so difficult to understand. This virus makes the community feel stressed and anxious. This is a big challenge to the community and they don’t know what to do about it, they feel really helpless,” she says.
The community hopes that if they work together by following the lockdown regulations the country will fight this pandemic and be able to live their normal lives again, even though it will take time.
Despite her fears, Kethiwe is grateful for what she’s learnt from SaveAct.
“If it wasn’t for SavAact I wouldn’t be where I am today. The project changed a lot of things in myself and my family, and my business has grown daily since I started to save because I was able to buy more material and fix the sewing machine when necessary. When the lockdown ends I will work hard, as I did before. For now, it has come with challenges for my business but it’s not the end of the world, I can still produce something good in future.”