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Supporting clients 2 October 2020

COVID-19 face masks for the hearing impaired

COVID-19 has taught me that an effective entrepreneur is one who can solve problems

By Nkululeko Lehapa, Founder of Busani Clothing Enterprise 

We recently launched our deaf-friendly clear face masks. These locally made masks, which allow deaf people to communicate effectively during COVID-19, are clear and don’t fog at all when you breathe or speak. I’m very proud of our team, who have been innovative and considerate. Our community matters, and now deaf people will never be neglected. 

COVID-19 has taught me that an effective entrepreneur is one who can easily solve problems and adjust to current market trends, an entrepreneur who can see opportunity in challenges. I’ve learnt that I need to be open-minded, resourceful and adaptable. And most importantly, I’ll be able to ask for help when needed.  

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 20. While studying a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Applied Maths and Economics at Wits University, I faced the risk of being financially excluded. I decided to seek employment and began working at an investment bank. But since my income was going towards paying for my fees, I had no money for formal work clothing. So I decided to make my own.  

I became known at work for being incredibly well dressed, and my colleagues insisted that I make suits for them as well. What made my brand unique was the level of customisation you could get with us at a price that was really affordable.  

Since then, I have maintained full-time employment to be able to fund my business when needed. And in early 2020, Standard Bank provided us with funding via its enterprise development programme. I learnt about the programme through a close friend of mine who previously worked for Standard Bank and who saw great potential in our business. 

On helping others and the way forward  

While running a textile company, I’ve come across a few entrepreneurs in the same industry.  Many of them are unsure about what the next steps for their businesses should be. So I personally offer private consultations to these entrepreneurs, where I allow them to ask me questions. I provide them with tips and suggestions on how to market and source for their businesses. I also offer them full access to my facility with regards to product designs and production. 

I have a strong passion for mass production, as I believe that this is a strong solution for unemployment in our immediate community as well as a great contribution to skills development.  

Our facility has a capacity of 12 full-time tailors. Our short-term goal is to build a facility that accommodates 50 to 100 full-time tailors. This type of facility will require us to build long-term relationships with well-known major retailers and suppliers. This will allow us to be sustainable well into the future.