SME With a High Impact Has Caught the Attention of Large Clothing Brands

After leaving a career in a corporate environment, Suraya Williams decided to follow in her late mother’s footsteps and founded Design26 – a 100% black woman-owned Cut-Make-Trim (CMT) manufacturer in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town that specialises in women’s’ wear.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, Suraya recognised the need to pivot Design26’s production from women’s formal wear (matric ball and wedding dresses), and expand their product offering to ready-to-wear clothing, including a range of breastfeeding wear and homeware products. In 2021, Design26 joined the Cape Clothing and Textile Cluster’s Small Business Accelerator, and their potential caught the attention of a panel of large customers (made of Cape Union Mart, Woolworths, Pepkor and PepClo) when pitching their business in a Dragons’ Den event. Design26 was awarded “High Impact Business” on the day and R15,000 prize money.

Since progressing through the initial stages of the Small Business Accelerator programme, Design26 have been granted cluster membership, completed the cluster’s GrowthFinder Diagnostic (an online benchmarking study), received access to skills development training and business case development mentorship.

When speaking on the value derived from participating in the Accelerator, Suraya makes mention of working alongside an experienced mentor with incredible industry knowledge. “This opportunity has helped me to understand where Design26 is, how I would like to grow the business and what the industry’s requirements are.” – Suraya Williams, co-owner and Director of Design26.

Suraya also speaks of the value derived from connecting with like-minded SME participants of the Accelerator which has opened avenues for possible collaborations and strategic partnerships.

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What’s next for Design26?

Suraya’s passion lies in encouraging and empowering the youth, particularly young women to get involved in the local clothing and textiles industry. Design26 is the first manufacturing plant in Mitchells Plain with in-house training facilities, providing free sewing training to teenage mothers and underprivileged girls of the Cape Flats. “The one thing that excites me about working in the clothing and textiles industry in South Africa is the opportunity to revive its current state.”

The business is in the process of purchasing a piece of land with the vision of expanding their operations to a bigger premises. To complement the expansion plan, Design26 is looking forward to increasing their capacity and improving their structured processes.

“I’ve learnt that there’s so much that goes into the manufacturing process and doing it from a small space comes with its own challenges. It’s not always about solving a problem about a product or understanding what your customer wants. Often, it’s about solving problems within your own manufacturing plant – the timing, costing and layout of your production.” – Suraya Williams

Robyn-Leigh Van Laren