Ponani Shikweni is not only a self-made woman, she also has an infectious energy and indefatigable drive to equip other young women in Alexandra, Johannesburg, to reach financial independence. While the COVID-19 pandemic threatened many small businesses, this agile entrepreneurial cooperative seized an opportunity for growth.
“Life is fast in Alex, and to survive you need to have a plan. Having no income and no job can lead people to some desperate, dangerous actions, and so when we offer young women work opportunities, we are also helping young people to avoid getting involved with drugs and crime,” says Shikweni, who is director of Hluvuko Designs.
Before the Hluvuko Designs business was formally established, Shikweni and six other women had started sewing to order. Their products were being sold through an intermediary and the women therefore received only a fraction of the profits.
In 2015, however, Netcare recognised the potential of the women’s entrepreneurial model as a promising enterprise development project, and assisted them to formally register the business. According to Shikweni, the name ‘Hluvuko Designs’, meaning ‘development’, was chosen because it encapsulates their purpose of developing individuals as well as contributing to the prosperity of their community.
As part of its partnership with the YES initiative, Netcare will be establishing an entrepreneurial hub at Alex Mall with the aim of promoting job creation through supporting grassroots entrepreneurs and nurturing small businesses in the community.
“Site plans have been approved by the City of Johannesburg council but construction was unfortunately halted due to lockdown,” says Dr Ndzwayiba.
“The hub will be much larger than was initially planned and will cater for more entrepreneurs sponsored by other corporations. Hluvuko Designs will be one of the anchor tenants in the hub,” he concluded.