When the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic led to profit loss in the public transport business, three KwaZulu-Natal women taxi owners found a new way to supplement their income within the sector.
Joyce Hlobo, Joyce Nkosi and Mavis Ndlela have started How Long Service, an upholstery business for minibus taxis that is receiving support from taxi owners in local taxi associations.
The three enterprising women manufacture seat covers for HiAce, Toyota, Siyaya and Quantum minibus taxis. They also do patchwork for both private cars and minibus taxis.
Hlobo, the leader of the team, says they are part of a Durban Central Region women’s desk for women taxi owners. Since 2019, they have been concerned about slow profits. Things got worse when the country went into national lockdown last year because of COVID-19.
“With profits decreasing yet we had loans to pay back and families to look after, I presented the idea to the women’s desk for us to diversify our business and not only expect income from passenger fares,” explains Hlobo.
While others were hesitant to join, Nkosi and Ndlela bought into Hlobo’s idea. They started with two sewing machines. They then showed their work to local taxi associations and asked for support.
“When a person needs us to cover their car, they let us know. Since we know the minibus taxi sizes, we know exactly what measurements to make. Once we are done manufacturing the covers, they bring the taxis to us and we spend about three hours fitting in the covers,” explains Hlobo.
The women have lauded Yusuf Khalifa, who is the chairperson of the South Beach and North Beach Taxi Association in Durban, for marketing their business and urging taxi owners to use their services.
“I encourage women to find ways to make money. We cannot cry for losses we are making in business and hope things will eventually go back to normal. We need to help ourselves,” says Hlobo.