When Mahlatsi Mashile opened her clothing manufacturing business in 2012 with just a second-hand sewing machine and a whole lotta spunk, she never dreamed that she would be working with an industry giant like Massmart.
Reapso’s relationship with Massmart began in 2015. It was a collaboration that would change the trajectory of the business. Mahlatsi says Massmart is truly committed to building a transformed economy. The company does not simply tick boxes on the BBBEE scorecard or throw money at small businesses and send them on their way. Instead, Massmart has a vested interest in seeing her company thrive and not just survive like other Supplier Development Programmes that she knows of.
Mahlatsi says the assistance she received from Massmart changed the way she does business. She took what Massmart taught her and applied it to the relationships she has with her suppliers. She has been able to create similar opportunities for other businesses in her supply chain, like the small logistics company Dikwata ETP, branding firm Nkosikati, Triple Desire – who she gets her supplies from and the independent mechanics who maintain the machinery. Mahlatsi believes she now has a responsibility to ensure that the companies she is in business with are also legally compliant and ethical in their partnerships, something she learned from Massmart’s playbook.
“If you are aligned with your clients or customers and treat them as partners, you develop relationships with people who not only understand your expertise, product or service but are excited about what you do as well,” Mahlatsi said. “Because of our relationship with Massmart, our business has grown. We were able to achieve our milestones in no time. It shaped our business to where it is today.”
The Massmart name has opened doors for her, lent credibility to her operation and introduced her to a peer network. They assisted her with funding, streamlining her finances, moving her into a building better suited to purposes of the business and brought her up to speed with the stringent requirements of a supply chain.
“Sometimes, you feel as though you have been thrown in the deep end and you cannot handle everything by yourself. For example, there were certain rules I had to adhere to as a supplier to Massmart, things that I have never done before, but they held my hand and went through it with me. They helped me gain my footing until I could stand on my own; they made me feel like I was part of their family.”
Today, Reapso employs 40 full-time staff and many other casuals. “The majority of our employees are females who are the breadwinners in their families. Many of our young employees have no work skills, and we see this as an opportunity to train, retain and grow with them. Our training also leaves them with a rare skill which they can use to fend for themselves in the world with or without us.”
Brian Leroni, Group Corporate Affairs Executive at Massmart Holdings said they have big ambitions for the businesses in their supply chain: “This isn’t about developing subsistence businesses; we aim to turn our participants into sustainable businesses with a turnover of more than R1 million.”
Brian said Massmart identifies products that could be manufactured locally, instead of being imported. The company then partners with these manufacturers to grow their businesses and does not lock them into the Massmart supply chain exclusively – thus allowing the supplier scope to grow their market share.
Mahlatsi’s story is one of hope for South Africa. It shows what is truly possible when businesses work together: they achieve more than economic transformation – they change lives.
Be part of the change and network with corporates who are bringing about transformation. Get your ticket to the 2019 Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards.
Reapso is a clothing manufacturing business that focuses on the mass production of workwear for the catering, hospitality, construction, health, school, and sports sectors. Contact Mahlatsi Mashile on 082 686 0408 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.