LOCAL manufacturing company, Johane Garments is on an upward growth trajectory due to local and international support, its Factory Manager, Thomello Pokola has revealed.
Established in 2013 by a group of youths who had graduated as apparel designers, the company started operations from a makeshift factory shell with just five sewing machines and a handful of workers.
The company specialises in the manufacture of protective work clothing including overalls, freezer suits, reflective jackets, combat jackets, chef coats and hospital coats.
The company can also produce other types of clothing upon order.
At one point the company had to suspend operations for six months after the collapse of their makeshift structure. Moreover, the company was forced to regularly suspend operations due to lack of orders from clients.
And when that happened, they lost employees who were poached by other companies as they needed jobs.
Now housed at the Maseru Skills Development Centre premises, the company has begun to see light at the end of the tunnel.
Currently employing 32 workers, the company has the capacity to produce 4500 pieces per month. It operates a retail store near Work Camps in Maseru.
Mr Pokola this week told the Lesotho Times that they had begun fulfilling their dream of exporting their products.
“One of the visions we had was to see our company export its products and that was one of our achievements in 2016, after we secured orders from two South Africa companies,” Mr Pokola said.
“It was a great milestone as it also contributed to building the country’s economy and we hope this is the start of good things. We still have dreams exporting to the entire southern African region.”
Mr Pokola also said the domestic support had been good to an extent that the volume of orders was such that they did not need to occasionally send their employees back home.
When the Lesotho Times crew visited the production unit, the company was working on orders from Lesotho Flour Mills and G4S Security Company.
“Things have drastically changed for the better in recent times. We haven’t run out of orders for a long time and it is all because of the support of many corporates around the country.
“The support has been phenomenal and at this rate we are going to need more factory space in order to deliver.”
He said they were currently operating within 100 square metres, adding they would require at least another 500 square metres of floor space for different production stages such as cutting, production, packing and storage facilities.
He said more factory space would also allow them to increase the number of employees.
“Our growth is measured in terms of the quality of our products in comparison with other countries.
“Our quality has improved a lot compared it to what it was when we first started.”
Despite the progress, the occasionally struggles with cash flow, which often presents operational challenges.
“Due to our limited cash flow situation, we sometimes encounter challenges of completing orders on time,” Managing Director Tšepo Johane said, adding, this made it imperative for more corporate entities to support them.
“In addition, supporting a local company like Johane Garments helps in the country’s economic development since we will be able to hire more Basotho and reduce the high rates of unemployment in the country.
“Therefore we are encouraging more companies to come forward and let us manufacture products for them,” Mr Johane said.
He also said they would be happy to receive financial management training as well as assistance with quality assurance and management to improve their image on the market.
Meanwhile, the Domestic Investment Manager at Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), Semethe Raleche said Johane Garments had the potential to develop into a bigger company.
“They are a promising local company with great potential for growth but like many others, Johane Garments has the challenge of working capital.
“But with the advent of the LNDC’s Supply Chain Finance facility, struggling enterprises like Johane Garments will benefit,” Mr Raleche said.
The facility was created to provide access to credit finance to facilitate the development of Basotho-owned enterprises.
The facility will be made available to companies any time from now after the LNDC conducted a sensitisation workshop for stakeholders last week.
The facility consists of three solutions namely invoice factoring, where the LNDC buys up to 80 percent of the value of an outstanding invoice of a firm at a prime linked rate, thereby addressing the problem of cash flow.