Discerning visitors to the Eastern Cape know that it is not only renowned for its beautiful landscapes, its unspoilt beaches, and its wildlife. Those in the know also have an additional destination in their sights - a visit to Adele's Mohair, founded by passionate entrepreneur Adele Cutten. She has built a highly successful, high impact business that celebrates the much sought after mohair found on Angola goats, transforming it into luxury yarns, scarves, shawls, sweaters and much more. Adele and her team are an inspiration to those who visit, and those who depend on the business for jobs in the local community.
LoA spent time with the truly inspirational Adele Cutten in Port Elizabeth this month to find out more.
What does your company do?
At Adele’s Mohair, we dye knitting yarn, make knitting yarns, and hand spin knitting yarn. We knit a range of scarves, shawls, throws, plaids, sweaters, etc, using this knitting yarn both by hand and on small hand operated machines. We also make knitting kits which include the patterns for those who want to make their own items, presented in unique and appealing gift boxes.
“I was inspired to start the business out of necessity, as our farming business was battling through fallout as the result of apartheid government corruption. I had to very quickly to change my hobby into a money-making enterprise.”
What inspired you to start your company?
Firstly, it was a trip to the Hebrides, the renowned Islands off Scotland, where I saw a lady making her own yarn and then weaving into fabric. I was blown away by the creativity and quality of the final product used to make tweed skirts for the Queen of England, yet this lady lived humbly. Secondly, I was inspired to start the business out of necessity, as our farming business was battling through fallout as the result of apartheid government corruption. I had to very quickly to change my hobby into a money-making enterprise.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We try to make yarns and items that cannot be made by machines. We work in a large range of colours, so we offer a greater variety than bigger companies can make, and we strive to make luxurious items that are unique, textured, colourful, and not found in every store. We are known for our speciality items in this field.
“I do not come from an entrepreneurial background rather a professional one, but my grandmothers were skilled knitters and hand crafters and they passed on their love of handwork to me, teaching me the basics as a young girl.”
Tell us a little about your team
We are a group of women based in the rural area of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. We represent all age groups and races. Many of us are multi-skilled in our craft, others have preferred to specialize in their field only. Many of the women in our team have never had the opportunity of education and are very grateful to have work. Our work is all done by hand with only very simple equipment to aid us. Our workshop is based on a farm and the buildings are extensive, old farm sheds but ladies are able to take their work outdoors in good weather or catch the sun on cooler days. We are always offering in-house training for those wishing to learn new skills and for the highly skilled ladies to pass on their talents to the next generation. We are lucky to have a stable workforce and several of the women have been with us since we started. Living in a rural area, work opportunities are limited unless they leave home and head to the cities where work opportunities are also limited for folk with little education. We are a happy group, grateful for the opportunity to live and work in the countryside and with so much colour and texture.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I do not come from an entrepreneurial background rather a professional one, but my grandmothers were skilled knitters and hand crafters and they passed on their love of handwork to me, teaching me the basics as a young girl. The journey has been very bumpy, fraught with political consequences and influences on the working environment. We have had times of great success and times of near total devastation. The inner strength of the women and the necessity to survive and continue in a tough environment has pulled us through several bad events. Unemployment in our area is close to 60% and economic times are tough. We are dependent locally on the tourist market in the big cities and on exports. When the city of Cape Town runs out of water and the tourists don’t come or there is political unrest, it spills over to affect us. Ours is a high-end niche market. Our items are luxuries and not necessities. Small things make big differences to us, not least climate change.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We want to continue building the brand and becoming known for innovative, artistic and creative yarns. Our market is the big wide world. We want to build and rebuild agencies throughout the northern hemisphere where the climate and the knitting skills assist our sales. We want to continue encouraging local women by building self-esteem and self-worth and offering training in an area where this simply does not exist.
“We have had times of great success and times of near total devastation. The inner strength of the women and the necessity to survive and continue in a tough environment has pulled us through several bad events.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Creating exciting innovative products, launching them onto the market and seeing the reactions on the social media platforms. Developing and then sharing these with the ladies and most of all seeing them grow as individuals, rise up through the ranks, take opportunities and know they have a future for both themselves and their children. Not much is more rewarding than seeing a young lady grow in confidence and make something of her life. In a financially depressed, underdeveloped area with little or no opportunities, it is such an achievement.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Stay strong, believe in yourself and in your God, listen to advice but choose the best for yourself. Study successful, inspirational personalities like President Mandela, and learn to be a good leader.
Contact or follow Adele’s Mohair
Why LoA loves it….
There are some women entrepreneurs you meet who truly inspire you on every level, as a result of their passion, their tenacity, their ability to keep going and thrive even in the toughest of times, and their ability to keep smiling regardless. Adele Cutten is one of those women. She is proof positive that if you have a vision, a belief that you can make a difference to the lives of others and to the community you live and work in, and the skills to empower others along the way, you can make anything happen. Adele is creating luxury, world-class products that are unique to the area she and her wonderful team live and work in. She is giving visitors a reason to buy local, and making the world sit up and take notice of the unique skills of the people who live in rural communities such as hers in South Africa. Adele is a powerhouse and an inspiration to so many other women across the African continent who aspire to do business and do good. — Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa