An Interview with Zainab Bohardien

I was employed by Robert and Renate Schramböck, who owned a knitwear manufacturing company - R&R Anonymous. Previously employed at a different knitwear manufacturer as a wage clerk, it was only when I got to R&R Knitwear that I was introduced to the real world of manufacturing.

I started out as administration clerk, working my way through all the departments and then became the personal assistant of Renate, which enabled me the decision-making opportunity. Renate would leave the factory in the early afternoons due to her baby. This afforded me the opportunity to oversee and supervise the entire makeup section as well as admin and dispatch.

Robert attended to the knitting department, Renate was an extremely good teacher and inspiration. It was because of Renate that I realised my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. I was fascinated hearing about her quarterly trips to Paris and Milan, looking through the latest fashion magazines, knitting swatches and preparing presentation boards to present to customers. When Renate and Robert retired after 33 years in the rag trade, they offered me to take over their business and here I am today as the employer of the company in which I started as an admin clerk.

My interest in manufacturing started through my mother, who was working as a supervisor at a knitwear manufacturing company. In 1976, during the uprising in Soweto that spread countrywide, my mother asked her employer if he had a job vacancy for me. Fortunately, a position was available, which was given to me – I was only 17 years old at the time. After five years the company closed, but it was in this time in which my passion for the industry and manufacturing started growing. Thereafter, I was offered a job by R&R Knitwear. I took over the business in 2005 and was then able to call it my very own business.

My greatest fear was that I started the business with no cash flow. In addition to this being a female of colour brought its own challenges. It was my strong belief in the Creator that made me overcome my fear. I firmly believe that my calling in this world is to lead and inspire and provide employment. I overcame my fear with fully trusting in my Creator.

I have always been the driving force in my family, which at times can be trying given that all decisions lie with me. My husband and children however support me tremendously and respect the decisions that I make, be they business or personal.

No matter how far-fetched your dream may seem, never give up – always reach for the stars! No matter what adversity you may face know that you can do it! A woman can wear many hats. The business R&R Knitwear of which I have been the proud owner the past fifteen years will be 44 years old November 2020 – I pursued my dream, never gave up and I hope to one day leave my legacy behind.