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Tom’s House: Mazwe Tom

Young clothing designer catches the attention of funders with his unique style.

Juliet Pitman



Tom Mazwe of Tom's House

Like thousands of other young South Africans, Mazwe Tom faced unemployment after finishing Matric. The young man dreamed of studying fashion design but with no parents to finance further study, this dream seemed unattainable. However, while Tom may have much in common with his peers, his self-starter approach to life sets him apart. Unableto study formally but unwilling to “sit around doing nothing all day” he looked for the next best option, which came in the form of a community project training women to sew. “I was the only guy there but I didn’t care – I just wanted to gain some skills,” says the young entrepreneur who’s now the proud founder of start-up clothing outfit, Tom’s House.

Tom’s interest in fashion started at school, where he’d “renew” denim jeans for friends. “I started doing it to my own jeans to give them a unique look, but when friends saw them, they asked me to do theirs as well, so I built up quite a reputation,” he recalls. This early promise was fulfilled when he joined the community sewing centre. “We learned the basics of sewing – how to cut fabric and use a sewing machine. It was then that I realised this was my gift and started thinking that maybe I could make a living out of designing clothes,” he says.

Learning how to cut and sew garments was one thing; finding the money to buy the machinery and materials to do so was quite another. But while it may be true that start-up funding is more difficult to come across than an honest politician, it’s equally true that fortune favours the brave. Self-motivated people have a way of standing out and Tom was no exception. One of the women who ran the community project recognised his potential and put him in contact with Donné Nicols of Cyril Ramaphosa’s Shanduka Foundation, which is passionate about helping start-up businesses to get off the ground. “Before I knew it they had supplied me with a domestic sewing machine, an industrial sewing machine and an overlocker,” says Tom, “I was on my way.”

He started making clothes to order for members of his local community and word quickly spread about his unique edgydesigns. “I started off marketing the business by means of flyers as I didn’thave enough money to advertise in more expensive media, but the people who wear my clothes are really the best advertisement for the business. Other people stop them and ask them where they got the outfit, and they eventually end up at my door,” says Tom.

The journey hasn’t been without challenges however, and Tom says the most significant have been cash flow management and chasing clients for payment. Though modest in size and equipment, the business has grown. “In the first year it was only able to support me but in 2006 I was able to put aside some capital from profits,” he says proudly. When questioned about his success factors, Tom points to the uniqueness of the clothes he designs. “I get my inspiration from all over – from watching how individual people dress, to watching South African soap operas or MTV. But I never copy – my designs are 100% original soI take what I see, change it and put the Tom’s House stamp on it,” he says. Looking to the future, he has his sights set on becoming a top South African designer. And if his story proves anything, it’s that it pays to dream.

Contact: +27 73 445 1643;

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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