A bet­ter so­ci­ety

Finweek English Edition - - BUSINESS -

Dy­na­mite comes in small pack­ages, or so they say. No words can bet­ter de­scribe petite soft­spo­ken so­cial en­tre­pre­neur and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Stitch Wise, Natalie Kil­lassy, who has built an in­no­va­tive in­dus­trial sewing busi­ness from scratch with her bare hands.

Stitch Wise is an in­no­va­tive Car­letonville-based sewing com­pany that de­signs and de­vel­ops safety prod­ucts that meet and sup­port the needs of the min­ing in­dus­try.

The 16-year-old busi­ness added a phil­an­thropic twist right from in­cep­tion by em­ploy­ing para­plegic min­ers, mostly in­jured in min­ing ac­ci­dents, and help­ing them to get back into so­ci­ety by equip­ping them with in­dus­trial sewing skills and then em­ploy­ing them within the com­pany.

Stitch Wise prod­ucts range from per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment for min­ers to back­fill sup­port bags that form the pil­lars that pre­vent the hang­ing from col­laps­ing. The back­fill bags have since evolved into the smaller rock pack sup­port sys­tem, which the in­no­va­tive busi­ness has since patented.

“You’re on site, you’re in­volved, trans­fer­ring knowl­edge and the great ideas you patent. And those patents give you 20 years to your mar­ket, so you’re pro­tect­ing your mar­ket, cre­at­ing your mar­ket your­self with patents and it cer­tainly i mproves your bot­tom-line,” says Kil­lassy.

Kil­lassy says the rock-pack is based on the same back­fill bag prin­ci­ples, but with re­in­force­ment in the bag to give it bet­ter load-car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, in ad­di­tion to safety and user-friendly features for min­ers.

She says it was ini­tially quite a chal­lenge to get the all-male team of min­ers to warm up to the idea of sewing for a liv­ing, even though it was in­dus­trial sewing.

“But they be­gan to see the re­wards of their work, not just the fi­nan­cial re­wards through the div­i­dends, but the re­wards of see­ing that their col­leagues are work­ing safely and com­fort­ably un­der­ground through the pro­tec­tive gear we man­u­fac­ture,” she adds.

The so­cial en­tre­pre­neur, who em­ploys close to 100 peo­ple, has also de­cided to ex­tend the com­pany’s so­cial reach by stretch­ing into marginalised town­ships in the Car­letonville area. Through six years of re­search and devel­op­ment, Stitch Wise has devel­oped a model to launch and scale up op­er­a­tions by cre­at­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing hubs in the three town­ships around Car­letonville buhlen@fin­week.co.za

@buh­le­bezwi

Buhle Nd­weni Natalie Kil­lassy

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