Nandipha Bambiso, Thembisa Zine Tenza, Lauren Gillis, Divya Vasant, Zelma Matinise and Pumza Magaleni Dudula


For four young Capetonians, women’s empowerment is not a vague, academic concept, but a very real thing: each is about to become her own micro-franchisee in the first micro-franchising project in South Africa.

Nandipha Bambiso,Thembisa Zine Tenza, Pumza Magaleni Dudula and Zelma Matinise are all set to start taking their services as nail technicians to the women of Masimphumelela, Khayelitsha, Nyanga and Gugulethu.

They have their mobile nail kits, their branding, their business cards, their service menus, their uniforms and, most importantly, their qualifications as micro-franchisees.

“Only one in ten people are natural entrepreneurs,” says Divya Vasant, who runs The Clothing Bank’s Micro-Franchise Accelerator (MFA). “For micro-franchising to work, we look for somebody who is obviously a hard worker and who can follow a well-developed system and structure.”

The women were trained through Sorbet Empowering Women (SEW) and screened for the MFA training. Sorbet’s foundation raises money for the training by selling Relate Bracelets. Relate is a 100% not-for-profit social enterprise that provides earning opportunities for the people who make the bracelets. About a third of the money raised from the bracelets go to the people who make them, a third to the charity raising money (in this case, the Sorbet’s SEW foundation) and a third goes to covering material and running costs.

Bambiso, Tenza, Dudula and Matinise went through rigorous screening which involved occupational and emotional testing, and completed a ten-week course training them in business principles and franchising. They graduated at the end of July as fully fledged franchisees of Amazi, Sorbet’s micro-franchising brand.

Matinise, 24, who hails from the Eastern Cape, came to Cape Town after school with big dreams. She’d been a science and maths whizz at school and couldn’t wait to begin studying. She had been living with her sister for just a few months, when her sister died unexpectedly, leaving her to look after her seven-year-old niece and her two-month old nephew.

“When this opportunity came up I had no real idea of what it meant to be a nail technician. I had had big dreams for myself and it felt like becoming a nail technician was going backwards in life. But I decided to give it a try.

“I couldn’t believe how fantastic the training was. We learnt so much about the physiology of hands and feet. It ended up being exactly the kind of thing I loved at school. And we learn about how to run a business properly.”

This included learning about marketing and choosing a place to set up their business so that the four women were not in direct competition with one another.

Vasant said: “Generally one finds only small copycat businesses in townships, where the only thing vendors can fight on is price and many of them end up not even breaking even. To have a viable business, it’s imperative to have business training that allows a small business to grow and sustain itself. Micro-franchising is so powerful because it’s grounded in the principles of traditional franchising. If you take these principles and just adapt them for people in remote communities, you are still working from the position of commercial sustainability.”

Neil Robinson, chief operating office of Relate Bracelets explained how the funding of this training and development project has empowered not just the four young women, but a host of older women too.

“Relate Bracelets are made by unemployed women with large families to look after, usually only with the small amounts of money they get from social support. A third of the profits from the sale of the bracelets go to those women. So while SEW’s good work is giving young women practical new skills to help them become financially independent and able to set up a micro-franchise near their homes, the method of funding the work is supporting older women too.”

Vasant said: “The structure, consistency and oversight that make traditional franchising the most successful business expansion mechanism known are the very same principles that ground the sustainability of micro-franchising models.

“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 enterprises.”

While the four new Amazi franchisees set up their businesses, eight new trainees started their SEW course this week.

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

To support this incredible initiative wear your SEW bracelet available from Clicks and Sorbet stores. Wear the change you want to see.