Local South African business changing young lives

What started as a community outreach project has now grown into a small, but a busy enterprise that not only produces stylish products but supports the local community and gives back to those in need at the same time.


KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – You may have seen their beautiful protea and aloe-print handbags or wine coolers gracing the arms of trendy locals in KZN, but there is so much more than meets the eye to the local brand, IY Apparel, than its range of high-quality handbags, toiletry and make-up bags and wine coolers.

What started as a community outreach project has now grown into a small, but a busy enterprise that not only produces stylish products but supports the local community and gives back to those in need at the same time.

“IY”, the acronym for Ingane Yami – Zulu for “My Child” – is also the name of a children’s village nestled on the outskirts of the Shongweni Valley, just outside Hillcrest in KwaZulu-Natal. It is this village, which compromises of a school, community centre, crèche and sports field and is home to 18 orphaned children in KZN, that is the direct beneficiary of a portion of IY Apparel’s online sales.

Founder of IY Apparel, Michele Hughes, a KZN-local, returned to her roots after a corporate stint in Johannesburg where she worked for Investec and then for global NPO, the Starfish Foundation. With experience in the non-profit sector, Hughes was drafted by her local church to assist in developing the Ingane Yami project, which officially opened in 2010.

Having spent time on the ground, developing the project alongside a team from her church as well as fulfilling the marketing function, it quickly became apparent that creating a sustainable source of income was going to be a key factor in the longevity of Ingane Yami Children’s Village. At the same time, Hughes’ friend started producing beautiful laminated fabric and together, the concept of IY Apparel was born.

“Our business is more than just production and profit,” explains Hughes. “We believe in promoting fair trade and empowering people with skills and uplifting communities as a result.”

“We always wanted to create something that people wanted to buy because they loved it, not out of pity because they thought, “ag shame,” says Hughes, adding: “The fact that what you’re buying is linked to a charitable cause, is a bonus.”

Hughes’ approach to the business is two-fold: “We want to raise funds that feed directly back into the village as well as create awareness and visibility around the village and the work that Ingane Yami does,” she says.

It is both of these objectives that have led her to exhibit at the East Coast Radio House & Garden Show for the second year running and use the show not just as a platform for sales, but also to spread the message of hope in support of the children cared for at Ingane Yami Children’s Village.

“Today, Ingane Yami Children’s Village exists as a vibrant community where children’s stories are being rewritten, from stories of hopelessness and despair to ones of love, belonging and a bright future,” says Hughes.

You can show your support for IY Apparel at this year’s East Coast Radio House & Garden Show, taking place from the 28th June – 7th July at the Durban Exhibition Centre.

For more information about the 2019 East Coast Radio House & Garden Show, proudly supported by Durban Tourism, visit www.housegardenshow.co.za or find us on Facebook and Instagram.

For more information about IY Apparel, visit www.iyapparel.com and www.inganeyami.com.

Sources: IY Apparel 
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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