A woman working for women

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Lungile Dlangalala of Eyamakhosazana Trading, an entrepreneur in Estcourt, Kwa-Zulu Natal, created her thatching company specifically to cater to the needs of the women in her community.

Her mission is simple: to ensure maximum involvement of women in claiming their role in the construction industry through planned skills development and job creation. It then becomes clear why she chose her company’s Zulu name which translates as “for women”. Such is her dedication to creating employment and empowering the sisterhood.

“I was working in 2006 as I was unable to finish university. It was tough, because I had started studying hotel management, but when my father was retrenched, I couldn’t complete my course,” she recalls.

At the time, Lungile was living in a rural area with her mother and grandmother. She worked as an admin clerk at Mzimba Junior School, but watched the women in her family going off to work, thatching roofs. Although she had a “real” job, she knew where she would rather be. “My grandmother inspired and taught me. She loved to cut thatch, clean it and we used to help her. I fell in love with it. When I suggested that we could do something together as a business, they were keen,” she said.

Shortly after starting her business, Lungile went to the Shanduka Umbrellas offices to register with them, as they help business people. When they sent her an email about the SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme, she applied to that programme and was very glad to get the much needed help.

At that juncture, her lucrative contract with KZN Wild Life had just been stalled due to government budget cuts. Lungile’s cash flow had suddenly and dramatically decreased and the business was in trouble. She started working with her Tholoana mentor, Joff Wickens and shifted her focus from tenders towards other clients. Lungile is in the process of creating decks and lapas with a fire retardant fibre that doesn’t burn as easily. Lungile is particularly excited about the new, portable lapa she is installing which has helped her improve her monthly sales. “Clients can fold it up and then erect it, like you put up an umbrella,” she explained.

One of the benefits of the synthetic fibre discovery for Lungile is that she is the first in her region to work with it, and so has become an agent for it.

“I’m benefitting a lot from participating in the Tholoana programme,” said Lungile who loves the networking, the business lessons, and who has risen to the challenge of mastering Pastel accounting. “Initially, Joff wasn’t impressed with the way I operated my financials, but I’m learning to create a budget, to quote properly. I thought I knew everything about running a business, but the programme has taught me about so much more!”

Lungile recently acquired a trailer of her own, which is a source of immense delight. “With my own bakkie and a trailer with a cattle guard, I can transport more product and employ more people. This equipment helps me such a lot. I’ve got wheelbarrows too. It has become easy to work. I don’t have to borrow from my uncle. Now I’m saving a lot.”

Learning to run a small business is the most gratifying thing for Lungile. She is determined to grow the business and show the world what women can do when they cherish a dream and work together to make the dream come true.

Lungile can be proud to be among the strong women leaders who are paving a new road for development in a previously male-dominated industry.

If you want your chance to transform your small business, learn valuable skills and gain expert mentorship, apply to the SAB FoundationTholoana Programme today.

Women, youth and entrepreneurs with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.