Building a small business: the shoe seller in Samora, Cape Town

Compiled by Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

How can daily saving help to generate income ? The experiences of FEDUP’s urban poor women offer tangible answers. This story is told by Nontombi, who lives in Samora informal settlement, in Philippi, Cape Town.

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I grew up in a business environment. There was a business at my home and my mother used to sell things, so I grew up also selling things: when I was still at school I sold sweets. After I left school I was employed for a while. When that job ended I decided to start doing business again in 2011 and sold shoes. I sold second hand shoes for men and got my stock from a place in Mitchells Plain.

I stay with my family, my father, my child and brother and sisters. There is no other income so it only comes from me. I can say that I am a breadwinner. Our income was very small. We could not use it to get all of our needs. The problems we faced were that I was supposed to buy groceries and take this little money that I had to pay school fees for the children and buy stock for my business.

During this time, a lady that I knew (Sisi Lindeka) introduced me to Nolwando, who is part of the Federation. We began to learn how the Federation helps and empowers people. And how people do savings so that people can do bigger things with their savings like a business.

When I started my business I was living in a shack. I joined a Federation savings group in 2015 and also took my first loan for the Federation Income Generation Programme in that year. After receiving the loan in 2015 my business grew because I was able to stock more things because I was  buying my stock in a much bigger quantity. My stock before was very limited because I did not have enough money. So the loan really helped me. Stocking in bulk is very helpful because you do not have to do regular stocking. It gives you an opportunity to save while you are selling, without having to spend the money on purchasing stock. This also helps to minimise transport costs. When I started with the federation I used to sell next to Spar retail shop here in Mitchells Plain. I used to display my stock on the ground there. Now I am in this container. I bought it and I am owning it. I bought it last December as a result of the growth of my business after taking loans. As a result the growth of the business I am now also selling clothes.  

The problems that I face is that the business at times is very slow. When I was selling my stock outside next to the Spar retail shop, I could not work when it was raining and there would be no income. In the container, business is sometimes slow because I have just moved here. But I can do business here even if it is raining. I could also say being alone, while you have a lot of responsibilities, is a challenge. There is someone who I have employed since last year who is helping me. But when there is heavy rain and few customers I can manage on my own.

 

The criteria for accessing a Federation Income Generation Program (FIGP) loan are: formal FEDUP membership, being an active member of a FEDUP savings scheme, having experience as a small business entrepreneur for at least 6 months and being part of a group of 5 to access a loan. When reflecting on her involvement with the FIGP, Nontombi shares:

I can say that the Federation has helped me a lot, especially in relation to saving because I can now save money and use it for something that is important. We managed to build relationships between us as business people [in our group of 5] because sometimes it might happen that you do not know a place to buy certain things and ask other business people and they assist you to reach out to whatever that you need assistance for.

Since 2015 I have taken four loans. The last loan I took was R1600. And in all the loans I used all the money to buy stock. My profit is usually R4000 and I use it to pay the loan back. In future I still want to take more loans because it really helps me. I want to buy things that would add to my shop, like jackets. I like the loan from FEDUP because it does not have too much interest and we are given four months to pay it back.

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