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Tracey Chambers: The social entrepreneur

Updated: May 13, 2019



Tracey Chambers @tray0007 @tracechambers is the co-founder and CEO of The Clothing Bank @the_clothing_bank, a social enterprise which provides unemployed women with the skills training and opportunity to manage and sustain small trading businesses so that they can become financially and socially independent. The Clothing Bank achieves this with the help of its 7 South African retail partners who donate over 1.7m clothing items per year (worth more than $7.5m/R90m), stock that would otherwise go to waste, which they in turn use to help women establish trading businesses that earn them at least R4000 per month. They recruit women from poor areas around major South African cities and have capacity to support 800 women a year in their 5 branches. Tracey is a chartered accountant (CA(SA)), who spent a number of years in senior positions in the retail industry, before realising that she just did not enjoy what she was doing, and that she had become “a human doing rather than a human being”. After quitting the corporate treadmill and some time out, she combined her knowledge and networks in the retail sector, with her limited understanding of the informal sector, her desire to make a difference and her understanding that there are millions of unemployed mothers in South Africa who are unable to find work - she conceptualised The Clothing Bank, together with her co-founder, Tracey Gillmore in late 2009. Tracey tells us that the journey has not always been an easy one and that they were extremely naive as to the real problems some of these women face, but together with their committed team, they have managed to successfully design a programme that has real impact. We are inspired by Tracey’s courage to listen to her intuition, live her value system and admire her ability to persevere through the initial difficult years.

Tracey says that if it were not for her discovering mindfulness, she would probably have had a nervous breakdown, it is a tool she uses to calm herself and gain clarity.

Featured artist: Janine Du Plessis @janine_duplessis

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