Feb 2012

All-women co-op bags additional opportunities

Employment news
All-women co-op bags additional opportunities

The demand for eco-friendly shopping bags has opened additional business opportunities for an all-women Eastern Cape cooperative.

From its humble beginnings in 2004, the Greater Uitenhage Sewing Cooperative (Gusco) has grown its business over the years as their multi-coloured eco-friendly shopping bags are proving popular with environmentally conscious shoppers.

One of the remarkable success stories of Gusco is a contract to supply their multi-coloured eco-friendly shopping bags to the upmarket retail chain, Woolworths. They supply more than 300 000 eco-friendly shopping bags for Woolworths worth more than R3, 5 million. They have also identified new markets in the retail sector.

Additional contracts

Nafeesa Dinie, Business Unit Head of Uitenhage Despatch Development Initiative (UDDI), said they hoped to grow Gusco’s business this year by attracting and securing additional contracts and are looking at opportunities to create a more diverse range of products.

UDDI helped with the establishment of Gusco when three different sewing cooperatives were merged in a bid to create employment and business opportunities for the women.

Strong partnerships

“Initial discussions have been held with Woolworths regarding future potential growth opportunities. With forging strong partnerships … a solid business foundation has been established and has resulted in a successfully and commercially viable cooperative contributing to the local economy and job creation,” said Dinie.

“The ladies of Gusco have come a long way from being unemployed to being business owners and this has been achieved in a relatively short period with the support of all stakeholders. Woolworths was key to this success, and this clearly signals the company’s commitment to support and contribute to sustainable community enterprise development in our country.”

Gusco was established in partnership with Standard Bank South Africa, Volkswagen South Africa Community Trust and UDDI as the project managers. An industrial production facility was established with start-up funding from the partners. Cooperative members attended various skills and business management development training programmes. 

A technical expert was appointed to oversee the operational and production management.

Women empowerment

The production is in accordance with quality production standards, and currently empowers 27 women as members of the cooperative.

The expansion of the garment manufacturing facility will provide opportunities for other groups to be trained and for a variety of additional products to be developed.

This will link it to other market opportunities and will contribute to socio-economic development and sustainable job creation.

-Mbulelo Baloyi

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