By Caleb Qoyo and Kayla Kolker
‘I really loved clothing but never thought I would have a career in fashion… I grew up a fashionable girl, I loved clothes, but I never thought..‘
Andy Buthane , founder of Andy B Couture, has always loved beautiful things. Growing up she was among the most fashionable kids in her neighborhood. She grew up surrounded by sewing as a child but that did not inspire her to do the same, her heart was on hospitality. Almost as if the answer was beneath her nose the whole time, she only tapped into her passion for creation after stumbling upon a fashion program after her plans failed. What she ‘settled’ on has become a creative outlet, a knowledge base to share skills with other women, and her own couture line.
Andy graduated matric and things didn’t go how she expected. With a lack of open space at Northlink college, where she aimed to study hospitality, she turned this limit into an opportunity. Rather than awaiting an open space at Northlink, she went into a clothing production program. Andy went on to CPUT but her time there was short lived due to her commitment to family commitments
‘I failed that first year, but I refused to give it up and my passion only grew so much so I forgot about my original desire to study hospitality. By the time I left Northlink for CPUT I was set on fashion and starting my own business. It’s not something I had in mind growing up but rather something that I stumbled into and the passion just grew.‘
With an incomplete tertiary qualification and strong faith, she organised a space at Lingelethu Training Centre. There a church member invested R2000 in a start up capital. That was the beginning of Andy B Couture. She worked hard and supported her siblings through high school.
At that time she discovered her other love – empowering women through teaching them to sew. She became a sewing instructor at 2 different organisations where she taught young women from rural areas where job opportunities are scarce. This has since grown to something she cares deeply about.
‘By giving them the skill of sewing we gave them the ability to put bread on the table. Some of them started selling their works at the local taxi ranks and established their own businesses.‘
Working at those organisations fostered her love for teaching but over time she found the experience a bit limiting. She wanted to do more for the women than just teach them the basics of sewing, they needed more training in skills like cutting and stitching patterns. Expanding to teach such skills meant creating additional classes and hiring more instructors, something they could not afford. Soon one organisation shut down due to lack of funding and she left the second.
After the birth of her first child she soon returned to her focus to her business but added a sewing school to it as well that has been growing slowly. However, 10 years after starting the business she felt she didn’t have much to show for it. It was at this point she was introduced to Phaphama SEDI.
‘In 2018 when I met Phaphama I was so discouraged because my business didn’t seem like it was materialising, I had been counting the years. I was on the verge of finding a stable job then I met people from Phaphama and got inspiration from attending the sessions.’
Through Phaphama she identified the mistakes that were keeping her business from growing. She got paired with consultants Richard and Lara who first helped her set out SMART goals for her business and create a vision board. She learnt the need to keep detailed financial records and how to track her income and expenses. From that they were able to spot wasteful expenditure expenses not essential for the business.
‘We started working towards the goals I had and everything stated on the vision board. Slowly but surely we started seeing results. The first month working with them I made a little profit of R800. That was huge for me. Then the second month I made over R1000, then a month over R3000 then eventually I was settled around R12 900 profit. It was unbelievable!‘
As her business grew so did the challenges, she recalled the incident that made her realise that it was time to move her business elsewhere;
‘The next challenge then became people in the community’s perception of me. They believed I was making a lot of money and I started getting robbed frequently. One day someone I thought was a client held me at gunpoint while I was alone at my workspace. I was traumatised afterwards and couldn’t get past it. Every time I would go to work, I would remember and become terrified and would start avoiding going to work. Looking back now I can say that was another blessing because I was supposed to have left the township long ago.‘
She is now based in Woodstock and employs 2 people full time. She strides forward with her signature determination and optimism. In the next 5 years she wants to have a boutique in either Century City Mall or Somerset Mall. Her heart is set on empowering women and yearns to grow her sewing school such that it’s able to cater for the women who need it most.
‘As much as I’m impressed with it now, I still want to grow to a huge organisation that helps women without funds. The women whom my heart longs for are the women who are unemployed, who didn’t get an opportunity to go to school. Sewing doesn’t need anyone to have any educational background and can equip anyone to be able to make a living. I will be working towards reaching those target women in the next 5 years.‘
You can contact Andy through the Facebook link below: