Kerry Wiens shares about her opportunity to be part of the “I Heart Market” with some of the graduates of the Sewing Program at Seed of Hope.
It is a beautiful Saturday morning in July. The sky is blue and the sun is shining. I am heading off for a day in Durban at the “I Heart Market.” This market is a boutique market specializing in 100% South African items. Seed of Hope hosts a table at the market to promote its sewing product line.
My first stop is to fetch Getrude and her daughter Zama, they are the sales reps for today. We chat the whole way into Durban; I practice a little zulu and we catch up on life.
We have been doing this trip monthly now for almost 2 years and it is amazing to see how we have learned and grown throughout the time. When we first began, our product line was limited and our customer base very small. The first year we made enough sales to keep us going but the cost of our table was about 1/4 of our revenue.
We have been trying to increase awareness of the beauty of South African Shwe Shwe fabric. Authentic Shwe Shwe is made locally at the Zwelitsha factory by running the material through brass rollers. Now we have people coming and asking for our products and spreading the word to others.
Selling our products supports ladies in our training program at Seed of Hope and also those that have graduated. As our product line has developed each group of graduates has specialized in a particular product and we are able to give them exclusive orders for that product.
Ernistina, Sewing Coordinator at Seed of Hope, manages the entire pricing, packing and preparation for the market. We have been trying to give the ladies from the sewing program business experience by participating as salespeople at the markets. Getrude has been our most dedicated sales person, and she now brings her daughter Zama to teach her some of the sales skills needed at the market. Getrude also trains other women to sell at the table if they are interested.
Getrude said to me last month, “Getting up everyday and trying to do something with my time is much better than just lazing around the house. I am not going to waste my energy. I am going to work hard.”
Getrude was widowed 3 years ago and is the sole supporter of her family. How exciting it is to see people growing in their business skills and taking courageous steps to provide for their families.
We arrive at the market by 8am and spend a busy hour setting up. Both Gertrude and Zama are becoming skilled merchandisers. By the time we are done, our table is abounding with bright colours and patterns.
The exciting progress we have seen is a doubling in our revenue since last year. Our table rental is now 1/7 of our revenue. Even if we have a slower month, we still celebrate!
Participating in the market has given us many fabulous exposure opportunities and it encourages us to keep dreaming for the future. It would be great to see our sewing ladies hiring their own table one day and maybe even see other entrepreneurs getting involved.