One of the most tangible Relate success stories of the year belongs, without a doubt, to the Relate SEW bracelet.

SEW stands for Sorbet Empowering Women and one the most visibly empowered women of 2014 must surely be Zelma Matinise, a 24-year old woman from Masiphumelelo in Fishhoek.

At the beginning of this year, Zelma was wondering how to keep supporting herself and her young niece and nephew of whom she’d unexpectedly become guardian after her sister died. By November this year, she was a fully-fledged nail technician and micro-franchiser, with her own small business operating from the Cape Town City Centre.

Zelma was able to open her own Sorbet micro-franchise, called “Amazi”, because a third of the profits from the sales of Relate’s SEW bracelets went towards educating women to become not only nail-technicians, but entrepreneurs.

rom August last year to the beginning of October this year, 17 626 SEW bracelets were sold through Sorbet and Clicks. These sales related to R202 699 for SEW and R88 130 for Relate’s own enterprise development and its bracelet makers.

Zelma said: “I couldn’t believe how fantastic the training was. We learnt so much about being a nail technician, about the physiology of hands and feet, but we also learnt how to run a business properly.”

Zelma was one of the first four women to graduate from the SEW programme. The others are Nandipha Bambiso, Thembisa Zine Tenza and Pumza Magaleni Dudula. The SEW programme has already welcomed a new set of women into the programme. They are carefully chosen. They have to be hard workers who can follow a well-developed system and structure. The training is done by The Clothing Bank’s Micro-Franchise Accelerator under the guidance of Divya Vasant.

Vasant said: “It is hugely admirable that Relate and Sorbet together saw and realised the potential of micro-franchising. They’re the first people in the private sector to truly open their minds to micro-franchising. It’s a powerful tool, but it can only work with the support of corporates and well-organised social enterprises.”

This included learning about marketing and choosing a place to set up their businesses so that the graduates did not end up being in direct geographical competition with one another.

“This is true economic empowerment,” said Vasant. “We simply have to create an inclusive economy and this is one of the most sustainable ways to do it.”