Sarah Jane Bingham

Companies Name:
Esjay sportswear

What does your company do?

Esjay is a proudly South African sportswear brand. My aim is to design and manufacture items that are flattering, feminine and affordable. I believe that if you are dressed well and look good, your confidence is higher and you will therefore train/perform better. All my fabrics are sourced locally, and I try to keep my ranges limited. I am now bringing local designers onboard - most recently I got 10 year old South African boy, Ethan, to design a print which is currently in production. I think it is important to incorporate local talent into your business wherever possible. Although I started with JUST short tights, I have expanded and now esjay sportswear ranges from tights to training bikinis to peaks. Every order is individually wrapped and packed with a handwritten note addressed to the esjay customer. It's made to feel like it's their birthday!!

What has been your biggest success?

My biggest success has been sustaining my business for 20 months without any financial backing. I started esjay with R4000 I had saved from coaching hockey in my varsity holidays. I didn't know ANYTHING about fashion/clothing design. I phoned around - sourced fabric and CMTs, and made my first very small batch of tights which I mainly sold to friends. Buoyed by the positive feedback I received, I continued to grow my range and expand my business. I am proud that I have no debt, and I have been able to support individuals and other small businesses.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

My biggest hurdle has been finding good, reliable manufacturers. It is essential to a business to build strong relationships with people you trust. I have been let down and been disappointed many times, but I realise that this is part of the journey and every experience has taught me lessons and helped me grow. As a young women, I have found that you may not be taken seriously, or may be taken advantage of. I have become more assertive and I am am learning to stand up for what is right and fair. I am learning all the time, and I am lucky that there are many people in the industry who have generously shared their knowledge and expertise with me.

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