Twenty-eight-year-old Nonsikelelo Ninela is an ambitious, hardworking and motivated individual, determined to make a success of her life.
The daughter of a domestic worker, Nonsi, as she is known to her friends, thrives on her mum’s words of inspiration, “It doesn’t matter how you start or where you start. If you have a dream, chase it and start from the bottom, so you know that you have worked very hard to be where you are.”
Nonsi says that her mother, who is her role model, is the strongest woman that she knows. “Growing up, she was both a mum and a dad to me. She always provided for me no matter how hard the situation was,” she adds.
Despite falling pregnant with her in high school, Nonsi’s mother managed to complete her Matric. “I am proud to say that even though my mom was just a domestic worker, she was able to take care of her family and raised her only daughter with the little that she had. Years later she got a job as a cleaner at the Department of Agriculture. Whilst working there, she studied Financial Management. She challenged herself to work hard. Today she works at the Department’s finance section,” says Nonsi.
Born and bred in Pietermaritzburg, Nonsi graduated with a Diploma in Journalism in 2010, but could not find employment. She then pursued studies in Fashion Design, which she feels opened many doors for her, including the MRP Foundation’s Jump Start Programme.
At the age of 26, Nonsi joined the Jump Start Pre-Production Programme after attending a recruitment drive at the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion. Ever since then, she has had many firsts!
“My life has constantly changed for the better. Jump Start gave me my first job. It gave me my first business trip and learning journey abroad. It gave me an opportunity to prove myself!”
Immediately after completing the programme, she was employed as a sample chaser by Eddels Shoes, a Pietermaritzburg-based footwear manufacturer. Nonsi says it is through hard work and sheer determination that she is fast progressing, as she is now a men’s footwear Junior Designer. “The position comes with a lot of responsibility and challenges, but I am able to overcome these challenges through guidance and my willingness to learn,” she says.
After graduating as the top footwear student of the Jump Start Pre-Production Programme class of 2015, Nonsi was rewarded with a trip to London in September 2017, as part of her learning journey. “London is a whole other world. I learnt valuable lessons in style selection, material choices, and how to make our designs more trendy,” she says.
As part of her training, Nonsi spent one month in China with the China Sports Footwear Technology Programme, an initiative between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Chinese government. “China was an eye-opener for me. I learnt sketching, 3D designing, Photoshop and pattern-cutting. I had the opportunity to cut and stitch my own trainers,” says Nonsi.
The Jump Start programme taught Nonsi many things which she has applied to her life. “One of the most important life lessons I learnt was the essence of punctuality. Being on time and meeting deadlines are critical. Although I come from a clothing design background, I learnt everything I know thus far about footwear, including pattern-making, costing, textile and production,” she says. “I also learnt confidence and the ability to speak in front of people. I lacked communication skills, and through Jump Start, I learnt to work with people, share ideas, and public speaking.”
Although not the sole-breadwinner in her home, Nonsi contributes to the household financially. At present she is saving to build a house for her grandmother. “Because of Jump Start, I am now independent. It has been a stepping stone to a better life. I have also managed to start my own small business, selling handbags and beaded accessories,” she says proudly.
Nonsi advises future Jump Starters to use the programme as an opportunity to gain skills and work experience.
“Grab education and work experience opportunities with both hands and use them wisely to embrace the chance to be part of the world of employment. I am a positive result of this programme!” says Nonsi.
Nonsi has committed herself to learning more about designing and the footwear industry. She is working towards becoming a senior designer where she can gain invaluable experience in buying, range development, and merchandiser and quality control.