The success of Rise Uniforms lies in serving the community

Ntombie Nonxuba grew up in the small Eastern Cape town of Sterkspruit, where her father “traded in almost everything you can think of” while her mother owned a small business manufacturing and selling church and school uniforms.

After passing matric, Ntombie achieved a National Diploma in Clothing Management in 2000. From 2001-2006 she worked for a clothing manufacturing company as a trainee manager and was promoted to production manager. From 2006 to 2013, she worked for the Cape Peninsula University of Technology as a technology advisor. In 2009 she graduated with a B-Tech degree and earned her Master’s in 2010. In 2007, while still formally employed, Ntombie founded Rise Uniforms.

Ntombie explains the vision behind the company: “From a young age I always wanted to own a clothing manufacturing company, but when I realised that most young girls and women are unemployed and depend on social grants, I took the decision to revisit my dream as it will not only benefit me but also make a huge difference in the community. I remembered my mother saying that when you teach someone a skill, you feed her for life; when you hand out, you are not helping that person. Hence Rise Uniforms is based in the location because we want the youth and unemployed women to actively take part in growing the economy of the country.”

Rise Uniforms is 100% black female owned with a BBEEE Level 1 rating and currently employs 46 people from the township. The core business is to manufacture, brand and supply PPE, corporate wear and school uniforms. A breakthrough came in 2014 with a Pick n Pay contract to supply staff uniforms nationally. In 2017 the company received funding for expansion. A second contract with Boxer Superstores followed in 2018, and in 2020, the company was awarded Best Business and Best Women Owned Business of the Year.

In Ntombie’s view, what sets Rise Uniforms apart from its competitors is that their customers can get a uniform uniquely designed with their corporate identity in mind.

“We provide a one-stop shop for your corporate, safety, uniforms and PPE. Our clients can focus on their core business and let us deal with their employee uniform needs. We will design, manufacture, and supply you with a complete branded product at your doorstep. Furthermore, 90% of our raw material is sourced and manufactured locally. Your buying our products helps us to create more jobs and sustain current jobs.”

To overcome challenges such as access to competent staff, markets and public sector procurement opportunities, Ntombie advises entrepreneurs to focus on building a skilled team as soon as possible. Steady growth is preferable to an all-or-nothing approach: “Focus on one big client and implement systems so that you don’t make mistakes that will be replicated and destroy your growing business.”

The public sector is potentially hazardous: “Supplying the public sector requires one to have enough funding to cover upfront costs. Rather consider naturally growing your business and establishing your brand before getting into tendering for big contracts. “

To would-be entrepreneurs, Ntombie offers the following advice:

“Focus on making a difference. Build a business for the benefit of the community. Find a problem to solve through your business. Take your team with you, allow them to make mistakes. Never stop learning (be a student for life) and accept criticism: real growth comes from mistakes, failures and being open to criticism.”.