Women’s month: Celebrating Women in Business.
by Thandeka Jabane
“Mosadi o tshwara thipa ka bohaleng.” Translated straight to English it means;” a mother holds a knife by the blade (sharpest part of the knife”. This means that a mother will do anything in her power to protect her child or children from danger.
Born in Barkely East General Hospital on the 5th of September 1963, Nozenzeke Langkop, commonly known by her marital name; Nosiseko Veronica Mandlakazi, puts life to this African proverb. Hailing all the way from Cala in the Eastern Cape, first born child of Novumile Langkop; who is the second wife of Mdadi Langkop. The mother of 4 children and grandmother to 8 grandchildren, shelives up to her maiden name Nozenzele, which translates to “she who does things herself”, this woman proves to do a lot to change; not just her life, but the lives of those around her, one stitch at a time.
She is a partner in Lemena Uniform Solutions Pty Ltd; a business in Welkom, located at the Matjhabeng Industrial Park that manufactures school uniforms at greatly affordable prices than those found at local uniform suppliers.
Her journey in craft and manufacturing began at the age of 9 years while she was in school and started doing handwork. It started as a hobby where she loved knitting jerseys and making clothes for her dolls, just like any girl at that age. Her very first designs at this age, were made by hand and she also used bicycle wheel crotches as knitting needles. In1980, at the age of 17, she learned how to use her mother’s Singer sewing machine and started making her own dresses. A young woman who dressed herself, literally!!!
In 1982, at the age of 19 she found work in Pretoria, where she worked as a domestic worker. Since she never lost her passion &love for craft &design, apart from her work as a domestic worker and child-minder, she made and repaired her employer’s clothes, too. In 1987, she moved to St Helena, Welkom, to live with her husband who worked as a miner at St Helena Goldfields mine.
She then went on to further her education and skills at Welkom College in 1999; studying design. It is after attending the design course, where her extensive work experience began. She started teaching people how to sew, working at major clothing and utility manufactures that eventually lead to her meeting her business partner, Nthabiseng Lemena. She was introduced to Nthabiseng by a mutual friend who recommended her work to Nthabiseng and as the saying goes: “The rest is history’.
The business started in 2016 with only 2 domestic machines. Their first formal client was Bongani Daycare in Thabong and that is how they decided to specialise in uniform manufacturing. Later the business was funded by the NYDA since it had majority youth share ownership and they were also contestants in the SAB kick-start program 2017, being one of only 2 businesses that represented the Free State.
They came out top in the national’s stage of the program and won 3rd winner prize, overall. Today the business proves to be amongst the fastest growing manufacturing businesses in Welkom. They employ a total of 8 employees, 6 full time and 2 part time employees, who are all women. Women empowerment, poverty eradication, skills development and job creation are values at the forefront of their goals.
The future looks bright for Lemena Uniform Solutions as their ultimate goal is to open a retail store that supplies uniforms. True examples indeed of another African proverb: “Wa thintha abafazi, Wa thintha imbokodo” loosely translated in English: “You strike a woman, you strike a rock”