Take one talented young fashion designer with a great eye for detail and a creative flair, and combine it with a passion for making a difference in society, and you have a wonderful South African social entrepreneur, Balungile Sokhulu, founder of Goshem City of Refuge Shelter. She is transforming recycled paper into accessories that are real works of art, and creating much-needed opportunities for youth with disabilities and women. She is a real game-changer.
LoA met with Balungile to see some of these unusual and beautiful accessories and to find out more about the inspiration for this wonderful social enterprise.
What does your company do?
We provide training and job skills to disadvanta
ged, unemployed women and youth with disabilities and train them to manufacture fashion accessories, interior decor pieces, corporate gifts and haute couture, using our innovation in newspaper recycling technology. We are also looking to house abused women and their children whilst training them with their new skills.
What inspired you to start your company?
I am a fashion designer and after working in the fashion industry for a while, I decided to complement the industry by creating a unique range of accessories. At the same time, I was also looking for a platform to address various challenges that our country and the world at large faces. My passion for recycled materials and newspapers provided the appropriate vehicle for me to create something different and make a difference.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our hand-made products advocate a WORLD-FIRST innovation in newspaper recycling combined with skills development. It provides an effective means of providing women’s entrepreneurship opportunities and empowering youth with disabilities; a way of creating awareness in climate change; recycling, sustainable job creation; and creativity.
Tell us a little about your team
We are a team of four people who have teamed up with the Johannesburg School of Autism in South Africa with the aim of training the disabled youth in newspaper recycling technology. We also have an in-house team to produce required orders.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My uncle and my step-granny were entrepreneurs in their own right, so with me being exposed to them and their work, it gave me the much needed inspiration to start my own entrepreneurial journey. As a designer, I started this journey trying to find a textile medium that would assimilate reeds, since I grew up weaving grass mats as a child in KwaZulu-Natal. Using my newly found knowledge and skills acquired from the fashion industry, I incorporated my knowledge to produce this innovation. The journey has had its ups and downs, but what has kept me determined is my passion and heart for people and the industry.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
My future plans are to put the skills into the hands of as many unemployed women and physically challenged youth, and form a collaboration with satellite studio owners to produce the desired orders of our products in volume. Also, to establish a skills centre for people with disabilities, providing them with the core skills to enable them to manufacture an internationally renowned product in exchange for a sustainable donation. This will make this innovation viable for ongoing job creation and product design and development, thus making our NPO a formidable service provider where everybody is satisfied. It will also assist the ladies that we house in our shelter to be self-sustaining and empower them to fight the scourge of women abuse in our country.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
To see my products bought by benefactors, because that sustains the livelihoods of the people and their families that manufacture them.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Turn your passion into business because you need to wake up in the morning and love what you do, it’s the motivation when the outcome of your vision seems to be realized.