Gwendolyne Gosselin, a South African entrepreneur, turned her passion for Shweshwe fabrics into a high-impact community childrenswear and toy brand.
Resourcefulness is a key trait needed by most entrepreneurs, and in the case of Gwendolyne Gosselin, founder of Mathilde & Co., that translated into learning how to sew.
Today, her unique brand of children’s clothing and toys, all made from Shweshwe fabrics, is winning fans at home and abroad. Importantly, it is also helping to change lives closer to home in her local community.
“We make high-quality shweshwe toys and clothing for babies, children and adults. It’s a woman empowerment project based in a small rural village in the Klein Karoo where work is scarce,” says Gosselin.
After travelling the world as an adventure tour guide, Gosselin moved to a town called Barrydale, located in the Klein Karoo. Inspired by a baby sleeping bag she was given for Christmas she decided to make more of it for the South African market.
“I had never touched a needle in my life. But living out in the sticks teaches one to become resourceful – that’s how, in 2010, with an old vintage sewing machine and R200 worth of fabrics I started Mathilde & Co. I taught myself how to sew and made some lovely colourful bags of my own. One thing lead to another and 4 years later, I now provide part-time work for 5 ladies in a small community where fruit picking and house cleaning are the main options.
Gosselin creates gorgeous cushions, bags, bunting, cards, headbands, dresses, trousers all in Shweshwe which she describes as “far from the traditional cuts and shapes: you could say our collection is based on Classic Western lines in Modern African colours, which we believe reflects our colourful, multicultural nation.”
About her entrepreneurial journey, Gosselin says “with a lot of hard work and lots of learning through trial and error, what started off as a bit of experimental sewing for my children and friends just went from one thing to the next and now with a team of ladies helping me I am more motivated than ever to make them proud and successful.”
Being her own boss, and having a certain amount of flexibility is what Gosselin loves most about being an entrepreneur. Her biggest piece of advice for other women looking to create a start-up is: “If you believe in your idea and you’ve done the research, do it. But don’t expect it to happen overnight and don’t give up when times are tough, because they will be. It may sound like a cliché, but believe in yourself and never give up, it will happen.”
Source: Lionesses of Africa