Threading a better future for young entrepeneurs

Greg Swanepoel, founder of the Threads project, based in Woodstock, talks about the emergence of a new-age entrepreneur.

The Woodstock-based Threads Project is giving young innovative entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their work in a creative hub at a discounted rate.

FounderGregSwanepoel started his entrepreneurial career back in the late 1980s by selling T-shirts for R10 out of the boot of his car. Mr Swanepoel, who worked in the corporate retail industry for a number of years, said he conceptualised the new retail model to mentor and develop a new generation of retail entrepreneurs.

He said the Threads Project provided a collective retail space for creatives, and charged a nominal monthly rental, plus 30 percent of their turnover. “Initially I thought this idea would work as a website. However after launching it in 2011 I didn’t get any traction and traffic.” Mr Swanepoel said he started the Threads Project with only 14 vendors and two years later he works with close to 66. “We struggled in the beginning and when we first opened you could literally skateboard through this space,” he explained.

Mr Swanepoel told the Tatler that “not coming from tons of money” catapulted him to success. “When I was starting out it was easier to break into the retail space. Nowadays the barrier for entry for youngsters is huge,” he said.

Vendor Debbie Perlman of Constantia runs Perfect Clothing, a business she started in August 2012. She outlined the challenges she faced as mother and businesswoman. “I’m constantly under pressure to be creative. It’s hard to switch your mind off at times as the production is always reasonably stressful. Handing over my precious fabrics and patterns to my clothing manufacturing team and hoping the end product is perfect is always stressful.

“I am constantly running around as I don’t employ anyone. Time is always a challenge, as a mother I’m constantly juggling work and family commitments,” she explained.

She urged young entrepreneurs to put their shoulder to the wheel, grit their teeth and just do it. “South Africa is still full of opportunities; you just need to take the risk. Anything is possible,” she added.

The Threads Project is situated at 349 Albert Road, Woodstock.