'From Diepsloot to the world' is Tlou Collections motto

21 January 2020 - 09:37
By Londiwe Dlomo

That business is done on the golf course is a belief that has permeated society for decades, and for one local entrepreneur this saying has rung true.

The recent SA Open golf tournament featured the wares of Cynthia Thusi, the owner of Tlou Collections, a corporate gift manufacturing business. Thusi uses upcycled materials to create a range of gifts such as wine bags, luggage, laptop bags, pencil cases and make-up bags.

She was afforded the opportunity of being the small business supplier to produce the welcome pack bags containing the golfers' playing shirt and cap, towel and ball set for the 2020 SA Open Pro Am.

"All our items are made out of recycled materials and covered with various African fabrics. The reason for the business is to reduce landfill, that's where I saw the gap and capitalised on it."

She operates from Diepsloot and has had the business since 2017.

"Because Diepsloot is portrayed as a dirty, filthy place and people would dump things in Diepsloot, I saw an opportunity and said [to myself], why not take all these pvcs and all the other things [people] dump [including] the leather scraps that they throw in our community and make something from it?" she says.

Her entrepreneurial journey began after being retrenched from her corporate job in 2016. Her childhood hobby of sewing was her saving grace. She's had a sewing machine since the age of 16.

Thusi is able to provide employment to three or four women depending on the volume of the orders. They help with the sewing of the bags. After she designs the product, her team goes out to collect the PVCs and scrap leather, which is then washed, cut to size and sample made. The PVCs is used to give the bags shape, is waterproof and makes the bags easy to clean on the inside. The journey has not been without challenges.

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"The challenge is always capital . and obviously other challenges such as access to market. It's important that corporates out there buy into the support of small businesses, so that we can sustain ourselves and be able to have manufacturing companies in our townships that can sustain and take care of our families.

Right now, I run my company but it is not a flowing business, like on a month-to-month basis. Other months are dry, so there is no business. Those are the challenges, that at times I can't give the ladies work because I've got nothing."

Thusi also provides a bespoke service for clients. The self- proclaimed extrovert says she attends a lot of events to promote her business, even though she has social media.

"It's important to network, it's nice to see who's buying your products and you can suss out trends so that I can keep up with the game."

Thusi wants to see a lot more young black people coming into the green economy and the manufacturing industry and "making the most out of it".

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"There's big opportunities in the manufacturing space; what we really need is support from the government. They mustn't just come into our townships and take pictures with us and have brief conversations and leave us there.

"They need to come back and put up those factories. We need to have factories in the townships. And really creating employment and not be ordering from China," she says.

"From Diepsloot to the world" is Thusi's motto and she's doing everything she can to make that a reality.

She says she received positive feedback from the tournament attendees. "Not only are people looking but they're stopping to touch and feel the product."

The entrepreneur even scored two orders after the tournament. She expressed her gratitude at being given the chance to showcase her wares by the City of Johannesburg.

"I really see my business going to greater heights. I'm so thankful that Bongi (City of Joburg events manager) listened to my interview on radio and called me in. I'm really grateful for the opportunity, I can see that our city is really trying hard to look after us. For me it's a great opportunity and a step in the right direction."