Entrepreneurship organisation hopes to rise from the ashes after fire

11 June 2019 - 07:00 By Sumin Woo and Stender Von Oehsen
The Clothing Bank has seen over 1,000 women come through its entrepreneurship programme since its inception in 2010.
The Clothing Bank has seen over 1,000 women come through its entrepreneurship programme since its inception in 2010.
Image: The Clothing Bank

An organisation working to help unemployed mothers become businesswomen is now turning to the public for assistance after a devastating fire.

After a blaze ravaged The Clothing Bank’s Cape Town branch in Thornton late last month, the social entrepreneurship programme lost its administrative offices and fully stocked warehouse, with clothing worth about R15m. No injuries or fatalities were reported.

The programme is now trying to rebuild its clothing inventory, with help from the public.

“We are deeply saddened by the fire but we are working hard to get up and running as soon as possible to limit the impact on our traders,” says Tracey Gilmore, chief operating officer of TCB.

The Clothing Bank began working with clothing retailers in 2010, collecting their extra stock to help unemployed SA women hone their business skills.

The organisation offers classes in entrepreneurship and trading, and puts the women’s skills to the test by selling them the 160,000 new items that come to the warehouses every month at a discounted rate, which they can then resell for profit.

About R15 million worth of clothing was lost in the fire at The Clothing Bank's Thornton warehouse in Cape Town.
About R15 million worth of clothing was lost in the fire at The Clothing Bank's Thornton warehouse in Cape Town.
Image: The Clothing Bank

Over 400 women work with the Cape Town branch, with 760 women across branches in Paarl, East London, Durban and Johannesburg.

Gilmore said the support from her staff, who have effectively been put out of work for the last two weeks, has been remarkable.

“Everyone got together [and said] ‘Can we come and help? Can we come work extra days?’” said Gilmore. “We’ve had so many responses from them.”

A new site will soon open to receive and hold new stock, and members of the public can donate clothing at selected Woolworths stores, including Waterford, Paarl, Blue Route, Cavendish and Bayside. Additional collection points are at 31 Thor Circle in Thornton and at Decorwoods in Bergvliet.


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