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Tom’s House: Mazwe Tom

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

Juliet Pitman

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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; mazwetom@yahoo.com

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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How Nic Haralambous Launched His 6 Year In The Making, Overnight Success

Nic Haralambous launched 8 failing businesses. He used the lessons learnt from that failure to ensure the success of his new business Nic Harry.

CEOwise

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Nic Haralambous, the founder and CEO of Nic Harry who started off selling bamboo socks online and now has brick and mortar stores with a larger product range around the country. Nic has also written a book titled Do. Fail. Learn. Repeat. which is a brutally honest look at entrepreneurship and follows Nic’s entrepreneurial journey. Learn from his failures and how he used them as the foundation of his success.

Related: (Podcast) Speak More Honestly

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Vuyo Tofile Of EntBanc Group Talks About Finding Solutions And Partnering To Offer The Most Value

Vuyo Tofile offers his advice on how to know if you’re ready to scale and how to get it right the first time.

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Vuyo Tofile, CEO of EntBanc Group (Pty) Ltd, which is a privately held enterprise and financial technology group. They empower small businesses with the right tools including products such as mySMEtools, which is used by over 46 000 small businesses. Learn about partnering for success, develop tools and resources that your customer base needs, and how can you scale?

Related: Do You Have That 1 In 100 Business That Can Scale And Land An Investor?

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Eben Uys Shares His Concept Behind Mad Giant Brewery And How You Can Make Your Business Stand Out In A Crowd

“You just need to start” says Eben Uys, don’t make up excuses why you aren’t ready. Just start.

CEOwise

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Eben Uys, Co-founder and CEO of Mad Giant, a Brewery in the heart of Johannesburg, South Africa. Eben brings new life to craft beer and has made his brewery and restaurant Urbanologi, a destination hub. His advice: “You can do things that give you short-term gains, but it might not benefit you in the long term. Try a lot of things over a long period of time and build a reputation and a network.”

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