A lifestyle of poverty is no place for those who’ve got grit

Sandra Jones: A Taking Care of Business Success Story

Wellington, 52 years old, mother of 3

You can’t wait for someone else to save you

Before TCB I worked for a bathroom and sanitary ware organisation. One day, I really looked at my payslip and realised that after 20 years of work, I was still only earning R2 500 per month. 

I decided to leave and was determined to become my own boss. I started my own tuckshop from my home. It was a good business, but selling on credit was my downfall. I did not really know how to run a business.

When I started at TCB my tuckshop was my only income. My 3 children were studying, still in high school and recently married. My husband was not earning an income. We were living from hand to mouth. Things were getting desperate.

At this stage, my son slept on the floor. No bed. I had no couches, no carpets, we were very poor. We didn’t have money to live or do anything except buy a little bit of food to keep ourselves alive. We couldn’t care for ourselves and make our life better.

I wanted to change my life. I could not wait for my husband. TCB tells us about becoming INDEPENDENT – that was what I wanted and needed desperately! I realised that I could not wait for someone else to rescue me. I need to rescue myself.

My pastor told me he had read an advert in the Wellington Gazette about TCB – it is for unemployed women. I decided to come and have a look. This was 2015. I came to TCB in Paarl and got interviewed. There were more than 100 ladies who wanted to apply, but only 60 got space. I was so lucky to get in! Praise the Lord.

I started in May 2015 at TCB.

Saving and goal setting: Steps towards getting yourself out of poverty

The first thing I learned, from Julia, a TCB business trainer, was that you must save. And if you save, you must have a purpose and a goal for your savings. I also learned that I need to set short-term, medium term and long-term goals for my life.

I set myself a goal: whatever money I make, I allocate it in 3 categories: 1 third back into the business, 1 third to live on, 1 third to pay off my debts and save towards my goals.

I am not here for someone else. I am here to get myself out of poverty. People around me were negative, and I refused to listen to them.

In the first 3 months, I started with a goal to buy small appliances for my home (a kettle and an iron). Next, my goal was that I want to buy my son a bed. I was able to buy this cash! In 3 months. In the next 3 months, I was able to buy myself tiles for my house. Then, I got in the habit of saving. All my debts are paid off. I work very, very hard to make this happen.

My long-term goal was that I want to buy a 4×4 Bakkie. This was my 5-year goal.

Dreams can come true…if you work hard to achieve them

I never ever had a birthday party in my life. My parents never gave me a birthday. I promised myself, one day, when I have money, I will give myself a party. I was 47 when I hosted my first-ever Birthday party! I called it my “gratitude party” and I invited people who supported me and provided for me in the past 47 years. I was able to give back for the first time. I gave everyone a token of appreciation and said thank you.

When you work hard and you have money on hand, your life is easier. It is such a great feeling! I was able to negotiate with the shop and I bought myself a washing machine. Every 3 months I am able to invest in things for my house and my family.

Then I started saving for the Bakkie – my big dream. I work, and I save. I work, and I save. I keep the dream in focus. I met a guy who was willing to sell his bakkie for R70,000. This was exactly what I was looking for! I bought the bakkie on 15 July, in my Birthday month, and it is now in my name and I was so amazed!

My other big dream was to go on an MSC Boat Trip. I told myself, “Sandra, you are going on this holiday!” and I did it. It was an amazing holiday. I have never taken a holiday before.

Focus on the solution, not the problem

The people around me see me as a role model. I refuse to notice negativity and to listen to people who say, “It is not possible”. I am a problem-solving person. You must face the problem, and then know in your heart that you will be able to find the solution. Focus on the solution, not the problem.

My life is an example to others. You can do it too!

My journey continued with TCB – I was invited to become an ambassador in 2017 and I was an ambassador for 3 years.

In 2020 I started as a Mentor at TCB. I help the ladies who have joined the programme on how to build their businesses and overcome issues. I enjoy my work! “If I can do it, you can do it!” Don’t wait for anyone; you can create your own “I CAN” moment – you have the potential. “when you take the first step, the rest is easier. Do not let fear control you.”

And now, I am a financial and business trainer and a mentor at TCB. And I still have my side businesses!

One of my goals is that I want my children to be taken care of when I am not here anymore. My parents left me nothing and I wanted to change that. I made the commitment to save for my children and my grandchildren. For each of them, I put aside some money, and it is in a savings account. I will be able to care for them even when I am gone. But mostly I hope they follow my example and become entrepreneurs too.

Taking Care of Business (TCB) is a nonprofit social enterprise. We are empowering unemployed South Africans and their families to escape the cycle of poverty through small business opportunities, mostly within the circular economy.