from Brenda in Hove, UK: Face Mask making in South Africa

My daughter in law is a very creative and enterprising person. She trained as a fashion designer and has always been very successful. From working for one of the top clothing chains in South Africa, she moved on to establish her own company (with two partners), downsized a couple of years ago (prescient) and now has a small business, designing and manufacturing women’s clothes. Guess what? As South Africa went into lockdown, every single order (many of them already made up) was cancelled. Who needs a Spring Collection now. Ruthless business.

Being the person she is – and desperate to keep her staff – she quickly turned her mind and capacity to making face masks. Designed some samples, constructed a website, organised her “essential services” certificate, and started making phone calls – and posting on Whatsapp. She had an order of 2000 from the neighbourhood where she lives, got an order of 50,000 within days and an hour after that a guy from a pharmaceutical company called and asked for 1 million. She had to turn him down. It seems that medical services and pharmacies in South Africa have little to nothing. And, of course, the need enormous.

The UK government has come to recognise that small businesses are a category of the economy that need special help at this time and have set aside funds accordingly. No such help will come from the South African government which is already dealing with a shaky economy. But, help or no help, businesses (small and big) will be looking hard at their business plans and strategies and realising that short, medium and long term plans are out the window. When catastrophe strikes, all previous assumptions are redundant. Life will not be the same after the dust settles.           

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