What does it mean to be a woman in 2017? To mark National Women’s Day, we spoke to Mandy Owen of Vermont Leathercraft Manufacturers to find out what our duty as womankind means to her. Mandy shares her real-life story of how she became her own boss, subsequently allowing her to contribute to changing the lives of women, families, and communities.
Today, Women’s Day is one of the most celebrated events in history, commemorating the existence and empowerment of women in South Africa. Wife, mother, entrepreneur, breast cancer survivor and owner of Vermont Leathercraft Manufacturers, Mandy Owen is one woman who hopes that by sharing her story she can inspire those who, like herself, want to make a difference in our beloved country.
Founded in 1983, Vermont Leathercraft is a family run business specialising in the use of South African Genuine Leather and Ostrich. The leather goods manufacturer forms part of the South African Textile, Footwear, and Clothing Industry and is best known for bespoke hospitality items and corporate gifts, along with high-quality handbags, wallets, and travel accessories.
The company is extremely passionate about supporting local trade and the training of previously disadvantaged women. Through job creation, these women have become the skilled team of experts dedicated to designing and manufacturing leather items of the highest quality.
Born and raised in South Africa, Mandy knew from a young age that women empowerment was something she strongly believed in. Today, as a role model in the workplace, she empowers the women of South Africa by tackling unemployment and promoting growth.
“The 15th of September marks my 30th year at Vermont. It all started with me making belts in our guest bedroom, and the rest, as they say, is history,” said Mandy. “My mother is my true inspiration, fuelling, and motivating me to pursue my dreams. She taught me how to sew, and sparked my love for the industry I am in today. My mother will be 81 this year and she continues to inspire me just by being herself. She makes wedding dresses to this day – like she used to all those years ago.”
As a company that is sensitive to the issue of unemployment, Vermont has decided to draw attention to this key matter by addressing the problem and constructing an environment where women want to work.
Mandy’s focus is women empowerment through job creation, and she has been able to achieve this by means of continuously promoting a strong company culture where her employees and extended family members feel empowered and valued.
“Our factory consists predominately of black women, all of whom are well skilled and recognise the need for producing quality handmade products,” said Mandy.
Mandy continued, “I have such a desire for training up previously disadvantaged women. This is because supporting local production is a great passion of mine. To watch my team of skilled professionals, dedicate so much time to designing and manufacturing items of the highest standard of quality brings me abundant joy.”
Mandy knows that each and every one of her staff members contributes to Vermont’s success and growth. Overall, the establishment boasts a 91% female support team within the factory. There are 42 permanent staff members in total, of which 37 are women. These proud women keep Vermont going, as well as Mandy herself.
With a core focus on increased awareness and job creation, Vermont has embraced the initiatives offered by the Department of Trade and Industry. The resources made possible by the DTI have made a huge impact on the local business, assisting with state of the art cutting and design technology, industrial engineering, and marketing. These tools have grown Vermont Leathercraft into the leading leather goods manufacturer it is today.
Mandy believes that she is doing her part to help women help themselves, and aims to continue to provide opportunities for women to earn an honest living to support themselves and their families while being a part of something bigger.
“At Vermont, the staff are appreciated and we all understand our responsibility in the process of creating sustainable jobs. We don’t just make handbags – we develop our products so our employees can have a better life.” Mandy concluded.
Focussing on future growth and trends in the market, Vermont announced the launch of a new brand of luxurious handbags and fashion accessories in the month of June 2017.