Growing up, Thabiso Makhubo always had a passion for fashion and loved designing, however, he never got the opportunity to study fashion after completing school. The opportunity to enter this market came on the back of a professional setback; Thabiso worked at a corporate insurance company and unfortunately his contract was not renewed after it ended a year later.
After losing his job, Thabiso decided to follow his passion for fashion and start his own branding company regardless of his circumstances – he uses a wheelchair to get around as his legs are paralysed.
Thabiso identified a gap in his community for T-shirt design and printing as locals were tired of travelling to the CBD to access these services. He then decided to educate himself about the branding industry and gained his knowledge through watching online videos and tutorials. He started Fashion Force Wear with just R1 200 and used most of his capital to pay his external supplier for printing his T-shirts as he didn’t have his own equipment then.
In 2016, Thabiso applied for the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme and was delighted when he was accepted as one of the participants. He explains that after joining the programme his business has grown from strength to strength. He has been able to expand his business to more than just T-shirt printing and has now incorporated elements of cup designing and printing.
“If it was not for the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme, I would not have acquired the skills I have. Through the programme, I learnt how to grow the business, how to price my products and handle staff members and I also learnt how to approach and negotiate with clients,” says Thabiso
With the funding, he received from the SAB Foundation, Thabiso bought printing and designing equipment for his business, before he had to use an external supplier to print his T-shirts after he had designed them. Using his own machines, Thabiso is able to accept more orders from his clients and print out more t-shirts which generates more income. On average Thabiso designs and prints 30 T-shirts and 10 cups a day as opposed to 10 T-shirts when he used an external supplier. This has enabled his income to grow from R3 000 per month to R10 000 per month.
With just three years in business, Fashion Force Wear Branding has grown tremendously, there are currently five full time employees whom one of which is also disabled. “When this business started, it took me two years to employ my first employee and after joining the Tholoana Enterprise Programme in 2016, I was able to employ four more employees to work with me since we were receiving more orders”- says Thabiso.
Thabiso is glad that he started this business as he says it has challenged him to become a better person and entrepreneur. He encourages everyone who wants to start their business to definitely follow their passion. His only advice to entrepreneurs is. “Be patient in the journey and remain consistent as that will help anyone go far in life”.
My biggest dream as an entrepreneur is to start my own skills development centre and to help empower and develop those who are living with disabilities”, concludes Thabiso.