The Clothing Bank

Arguably the most effective Social Enterprise we’ve yet come across, The Clothing bank (TCB) provide unemployed South Africans with an alternative to formal employment by empowering them to become self-employed business people. The overall vision of TCB is to grow unemployed women with children from previously disadvantaged communities into sustainable business owners. Together with their sister company The Appliance Bank that activates and upskills men, TCB warehouse and distribute donated merchandise from major retailers (customer returns, store damages, end of season and bulk rejections) to inspire unemployed women and men to enrol in a 2 year training programme and start small informal retail trading businesses.

TCB's secret is that they engage through rich programs developed and continually improved over their years of direct engagement with people in the system. This begins with initial induction training of two weeks where the women are given introductory training on mark up, budgeting and personal financial literacy, including management and use of money.

TCB then activate a 2 year ED and soft skills course that has 28 business skills and 10 life skill modules that are completed in the 1st year. The Life skills include modules such as health, values, parenting skills, moving from dependency to independence, organisational skills, understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses and working through trauma. In the 2nd year, the trainee’s receive Informal Small Business Practice (ISBP) training (which has an NQF level 3 accreditation by SETA). This includes a three-month computer course facilitated internally and accredited by an external company.

To complete the picture, trainee’s also receive mentorship where participants attend 'Women at Work' workshops and one- on-one mentorship sessions, as well as coaching facilitated by accredited life coaches, where the women in the programme learn how to deal with life challenges, how to work on and manage their feelings, how to maintain self- esteem and how to communicate. Participants also have access to counselling.

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