Hard work and big dreams in Okahandja Park

With dedication and hard work, Aino Kaapangelwa has built up a small businesses that sustains her family.

13 December 2017 | Life Style

Five years ago Okahandja Park seamstress Aino Kaapangelwa (40) quit her job as a nightshift security guard to launch her own business, which empowered her to singlehandedly support her three children and two siblings since then.

Her journey from took willpower, passion and dedication.

“I would work from 17:00 until the next morning as a security guard, and then attend the seamstress classes from 08:00 until 12:00 each day, for eight months. I was always interested in sewing, and I really wanted to acquire these skills,” Kaapangelwa told Namibian Sun this week.

She runs her small, but thriving business from her home located in Okahandja Park informal settlement.

Despite living in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Windhoek, without indoors water or electricity, Kaapangelwa radiates passion and joy for her work and is devoted to growing her business.

“When I sew, someone can talk to me, I probably won’t hear them.”

One of her goals is to build up the business to the extent where she can employ, train and mentor others.

“If the business grows, I hope to be able to reach out and perhaps start teaching others these skills. I want to be a mentor, just like the woman who taught me, and who still helps and advises me when I call her.”

Yet for now, she lacks the funds to buy additional sewing machines and material.

“I really want to help others, to teach them. If I had a bit more funds, I could show them, because I want to help.”

Being her own boss is a dream come true and she is determined to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

She says what is key is the will to work hard and to be dedicated.

“People must just try to do something to earn their own money. It is better to stand up for yourself, and to be your own boss. Don’t just wait for something to happen,” she advises.

Kaapangelwa works seven days a week, depending on her clients and their requests.

“If I had electricity, I would probably work through the night too. Many people come with emergency requests, like uniforms that have ripped and need to be fixed before work the next day. Then I help them.”

Because her community is poor, she says she often gives discounts to help people in urgent need.

“Sometimes persons come, like a grandmother whose grandchildren need to go to school, but their clothes are torn or don’t fit and they desperately need help. You can see how they struggle, so I help them, even if they don’t have any money.”

Her business now consists primarily of requests for mending or altering clothes, or making tailor-made clothes for special events such as weddings, baptisms and choirs.

She has also earned a reputation for her quality work in making traditional clothes and men’s clothes.

For Kaapangelwa, one of the biggest rewards of her job is to see someone once a piece of clothing is completed.

“I say, look meme, you look so nice, and that is because of me,” she told Namibian Sun with a proud smile.

And as her quality designs have been worn at events, word of mouth has become a crucial part of her growing reputation and lengthy to-do list.

She says her income now is higher than what she earned as a security guard, even on the night shift rotation.

Kaapangelwa moved from the north to Windhoek in 2010 in search of a job and to help her siblings after both their parents had passed away.

After she had worked for four months as a security guard, she heard about a City of Windhoek initiative to teach sewing, mending and related skills.

She decided to grab the opportunity, asking her boss to transfer her to permanent night shift at the security company and attending the morning classes.

At the start of the sewing course Kaapangelwa bought a manual sewing machine in China Town.

Since then, the machine has faithfully helped her in achieving her goals.

But now, “it’s getting old and I will have to try and get another one.”

JANA-MARI SMITH

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