Mama Placide, 63 years old, comes from Democratic Republic of Congo. She has been living in Cape Town since 2008. In her country she studied to become a nurse, but she has always nurtured her passion for sewing. Once in South Africa, she turned her passion into a business thanks to her skills, her strength and the support of the Women’s Platform of the Scalabrini Centre. She currently runs her business in Brooklyn, Cape Town. The sewing atelier “Uriphos” is located inside the “5 rand store” shop in Koeberg Road. From the shop window it is possible to admire her stylish creations: this attracts lots of clients!
How was your life when you moved to Cape Town?
When I came to South Africa I couldn’t find a job as nurse. Honestly it took long time to find a job, so I decided to dedicate to sewing. I practised the beading with one lady. With the money I have earned in that period, I bought my first sewing machines, a domestic one, and I started sewing handbags that I used to sell in the Green Market Square. Sometimes I had gotten nice money, sometimes no. Outcomes were not constant and I suffered this situation. That ignited the will to improve my skills. I struggled to phone the customers to promote my capabilities to adjust clothes. Then I bought my first plain sewing machine and I started to train other ladies on sewing.
What’s your first feeling about the period when you moved to South Africa?
Cape Town gave me the opportunity to make money and become independent.
How have you met the Scalabrini Centre and the Women’s Platform?
I use to pray in a Catholic Church, whose priest suggested me to go to the Scalabrini Centre. There, the Women’s Platform gave me basic knowledge about how to sew men suits. I have enlarged my network, I have found new clients interested in the clothes I sew.
Why have you chosen sewing as your own business?
I have developed my own shop thanks to the business courses leaded by Jabulani, the Women’s Platform Sustainability manager. Thanks to what I have learned, I have decided to set my business and to find a place where to run it.
Who are your clients?
My clients come from all over the world: Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, locals and foreigners, blacks and whites. I have an average of seven clients per week, some of them place an order for a number of dresses.
What makes you feel proud of your job?
Thanks to my job I am independent and I am able to pay two rents: the place where I run my business and the room that I share with my sister.
How do you conceive the models of the dresses you sew?
Basically I am a creative person: all clothes I sew come from my mind and my imagination. I try to imagine the dresses people would like to wear and I turn the idea into reality.
How do you imagine your business in a couple of years?
I would like a bigger place to host my atelier in order to better promote my business, increase the number of clients and train both local both foreigners to sewing. In a bigger atelier, I would be able to set all the sewing machines I have, especially a cover seam machine, which is able to sew any kind of clothes.
What does your typical day looks like?
After waking up, I pray to ask God to bless my working day, to give me strength and enthusiasm, to nurture my creativity in order to make my clients happy. At 8am I open my shop, I work all the day long. When I come back home in the evening, I take a time to think about what it was nice and what wasn’t nice, I pray again and thank God for the worthy day he gave me the opportunity to enjoy.
What motivates you?
I am very motivated to be self-employed and to run my own business because in the past I used to work in a very bad environment: I suffered because of psychological and physical harassment. I was forced to work overtime, the working place was far from my home and I was in danger when I came back home late in the evening. I couldn’t stand that situation anymore, that’s why I decided to start my business.
What is your greatest inspiration?
My main inspiration is to make women are motivated. I want to avoid women get lazy, because the laziness brings begging every time.
Which advice would you like to give to other women willing to run their own business?
Never give up. If you struggle for your goals, you will achieve anything you want.
What is your greatest need right now?
My need is having more space: I am currently renting a small corner inside another person’s store. I need capital to be able to rent out a bigger space of my own business, where I can have space to put out my other machine and to care about my sewing trainees. Also a space where I can interact and serve my customers in a non-crowded environment.
For further information, contact Mama Placide on 083 475 2441