Susan Swart – South Africa

Susan Swart – South Africa

Date: August 2, 2014
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My Story journey with Gender Links began last year, in 2013. I was informed by Luzeth Smith and Laurenda Visagie from the Cape Aghulas Municipality about the I-Stories workshop that Gender Links was going to be conducting. As a woman who has survived violence and abuse, I was not very happy about being informed about this workshop, but I went home and discussed it with my children. I did not know what the workshop was going to be about and I was also not sure how comfortable I was going to be speaking about my past trauma and abuse.

I then decided to attend the workshop. There were other women involved in the process as well, and it was a healing experience. It was also very painful, but I was very excited when I heard that there would be a follow-up with regard to entreneurship training. I knew that this was going to be a good period of my life.

I am a business woman; I have had my company World Focus since 2008, and the company got registered in 2010. I primarily focus on catering and cooking; I have a tuck-shop that I operate from home. Since my first encounter with Gender Links, I have learnt a lot. I had a draft business plan in place, but I think I was also lazy to sit down and complete it correctly. I have had business training before, but the training with Gender Links was different; there was a great level of empathy and also a lot of encouragement from Juliana Davids, the trainer.

The capacity training was also something that I needed; using a computer was something I was not too familiar wit , but now I even have an email address; I am even on Facebook. This was a major step for me.

After the first session with Juliana, it was clear to me that I was going to learn a lot. I was encouraged to take my business seriously; I made business cards, and approached SEDA with regard to possible funding opportunities. The training with GL made me realise that I had to think beyond my backyard, and I was inspired to become serious with my business. I have also learnt that I need to balance my books and be more strict with myself; this has helped me, as I am able to start seeing profits coming in, especially over the weekends and also with the extra deliveries that I often make.

My menu has even changed a lot. Juliana kept telling us “we cannot all sell apples and bananas on the same street,” so I decided to look at my menu and make some changes. I make Cape Malay Curries now, Rotis, Burgers, Fish and Chips; my menu has increased, and I even do combo deals. This has boosted my business beyond what I had expected in a short space of time. When there is a slow trickle of business, I now make jams, preserves and canned peaches, and sell those as well. I am thinking very differently.

Gender Links has boosted my self-esteem. Seriously, I know I am a very talkative person and I am also very outspoken, but now I feel like I can do anything. This entrepreneurship training has made realise that as a single mother who is divorced and supporting my family alone, I am very strong. I often think of my past and the level of suffering and the abuse I had to go through from my ex-husband, I felt like nothing.

I have always had a passion for cooking and catering from an early age and I have always wanted to have a catering business or sell food, but through the years of abuse, my dreams started fading away. I only started finding my strength after I had divorced my ex-husband. I then knew it was my time. I am so confident, knowing that all my money belongs to me and I can generate an income alone as a single parent without the assistance or dependence on someone else to provide for my children.

My community has also benefitted from my business. At times I am able to give “piece jobs” to the unemployed youth to help me with the business, especially when I have a lot of orders and need extra hands. I also share the leftover food that I may have with members of the community. People have been recommending my business to their local churches and meetings. I even do catering for the South African Police Services and church conferences.

My community has been very supportive towards me. Many of these people helped me when I was being abused by my ex-husband. I am putting my community on the map, because even people from Arniston and Struisbaai, which is about 15km away from Bredasdorp, come to my community to buy my food. That makes me proud; it means I am contributing to the well-being of my community. With the training from Gender Links I will also make sure to keep advertising my business through word of mouth and local newspapers. I am going to keep working in my community.

With the training I have received so far from Gender Links, I am planning to approach major centres of development and seek financial assistance. I have started buying proper catering equipment in industrial sizes, and using the right equipment. In the past I was scared to do this, as I was afraid I was not going to be able to afford to pay for the equipment. I have been saving money each month, and bit by bit I am starting to use the correct equipment.

My orders are increasing on a daily basis, and working from my house will not be enough anymore. I am seeking a bigger space, but I need to also negotiate a good rental price for that specific property. I have started approaching local businesses for some assistance with that, but I want to expand my business further to employ more women, and continue to support my family as a single parent.

I want my company to succeed and get all the correct licensing with the right departments. I want it to become well developed, but for now I will continue with the entreneurship training, as I know that will only continue to make my business stronger all the time. I have no limitations. I always keep telling myself that my time has come, and I know and believe that my time has come indeed.

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