TWENTY-ONE years ago, a 20-year-old Riebeeck College matriculant took a leap of faith and dropped out of Rhodes University to pursue her entrepreneurial goals.
Fuelled by a desire to be self-reliant and self-employed, Lisa Clark shelved her studies after two years to start her own tie-dye clothing business, Shining Things.
“When my then partner and I started the business we had nothing. I worked for a while, travelled a bit and then saved enough money to buy material.
“We started selling our clothes outside Checkers in Grahamstown, and it was tough starting out with minimum capital – it took us about a year or so to establish the business,” Clark said.
But the young Clark persevered because she had a child to look after and “I didn’t want to juggle work and taking care of my son. I also wanted to spend as much time as possible with him and didn’t want to be in a situation where I had to put him in school too early because of work pressure.”
Her aversion to city life and her love of animals and gardening helped her keep her eye on her goal of living an independent life.
However, with self-reliance comes huge sacrifice and self-discipline.
“I don’t expect to get rich from running Shining Things, but the payoffs are great. I enjoy country living and get time to do a bit of gardening, take care of my animals and control how I spend my time.”
Striking a balance, advises Clark, requires keeping overheads at a minimum. “The economy is dodgy at the moment, so one has to keep a close watch on expenses.”
We met up with Clark and her partner, Ivan, at the Scarab Market in Sedgefield, where they had set up a stall.
Their kaleidoscopic of wares drew customers to their section of the market. “Markets like this one serve as our ‘office’,” explains Clark, who, at 41, looks the picture of hippy chic.
“You won’t believe this, but our biggest customers are holidaymakers from Johannesburg and Pretoria.”
Clark hails from Uitenhage but has been living in Knysna for 20-odd years. “I still have family in the Eastern Cape. My son, who has reached varsity age, wants to study at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and will probably live with my sister.”