Female SME’s Hope to Franchise

Partnership is a key part of the Jobs Fund’s role in supporting emerging black businesses.

One such partnership with Black Umbrellas (BU) continues to bear fruit. In 2013, the Jobs Fund allocated a R13.5 million grant to BUs Pretoria incubator to help develop 100% black-owned businesses by facilitating access to markets, finance and business networks.

Among the beneficiaries is Promise Machimane, the founder of Mia Sanitary Towels. Machimane founded the company in 2012 with the vision of assisting women and girls from previously disadvantaged rural communities to access low cost, high-quality sanitary pads. One of the major challenges facing these underserved girls and women is that they are often forced to miss school or work during their menstruation cycle, thereby negatively affecting their learning, confidence and ability to receive an education and ultimately earn a living. Being the remarkable young woman she is, Machimane harnessed her entrepreneurial spirit and resolved to proactively address the situation.

"We aim to increase access to proper hygienic sanitary towels and thereby the confidence of these women and girls,” says Machimane. “We see this as a basic human right."

In February 2017, she joined the BU incubator, seeking assistance to professionalise her business and gain access to retail markets. Since joining, she has made a number of changes to her business, including improving financial management by installing an accounting system, improving human resource management by putting together job descriptions for all her staff members, and drawing up a business plan that she is actively rolling out. Machimane says that she has also gained newfound confidence in that she is able to better articulate her business ideas to her team members, potential clients and business networks.

Through the incubator, she was paired with a mentor that was able to give her practical advice on how to implement new strategies and procedures to improve and ultimately grow her business.

"Working with the mentor was very beneficial and I am happy to have been given the opportunity," she says.

The mentorship provided by the incubator helped Machimane realise that she needed to focus on selling in smaller markets and become more established before moving on to the bigger retail supermarket environment, where scale is a critical requirement.

Before she joined the BU incubator, her company operated out of a house in Silverton, Pretoria, with 17 employees. By the end of 2018, Mia Sanitary Towels had grown to 24 employees with larger premises in Sutherland Ridge, Centurion. In 2018 the company distributed over 700 000 packets of sanitary towels, and recorded an annual turnover of approximately R2 million. It has partnered with seven distributors throughout the country, which in turn employ 72 agents to sell Mia Sanitary Towels’ products. Machimane’s expansion plan includes establishing franchises across the country to increase her penetration into larger retail markets.

Machimane was nominated to become an NDP ambassador and was acknowledged by Jeff Radebe, the then Minister in The Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, for her work in improving the lives of young rural girls and women. As part of this initiative, she travelled to schools to encourage young people to start their own businesses and to be proactive in developing themselves and their careers.

Not merely focusing on profits and expansion, Machimane believes in drawing strength from people through its constant involvement with different community programmes. Mia Sanitary Towels drives outreach campaigns in primary schools to educate learners and adults on various issues related to health, hygiene and sanitation. The company also donates large quantities of its products during these outreach services.

The success of Mia Sanitary Towels truly drives home the important role played by the Jobs Fund and its partners in developing small black-owned businesses.

Perhaps Mia Sanitary Towels’ greatest achievement, and indeed that of Machimane herself, is to show just what young black women in our country can achieve with the appropriate support.