Change is in your pocket

The Big Issue is a socially responsible non-profit organisation that enables willing unemployed and marginalised adults to take responsibility for their own lives through a developmental employment programme.

Wonderful Nomntu

Big Issue vendor, Nomntu Gogotya, is an entrepreneur extraordinaire. The Big Issue isn’t the only thing her customers are after; they can’t get enough of her Wonderbags either. We take a look at the seamstress’ booming bag business.

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Nomntu Gogotya (61) has been selling The Big Issue for 10 years. On top of selling the magazine, she has created insulating Wonderbags to generate extra income to provide for her family.


It all started in 2016 when Nomntu attended English classes every Wednesday with a few other ladies. When her teacher noticed that attendance for the class was poor, she decided to ask her pupils what should be done to make the class more interesting and attract more learners.

As Nomntu and her fellow classmates shared a love for sewing, she suggested they dedicate some time to needlework.

“Some of us were happy to sew, so we started with the Wonderbags,” says Gogotya. She has been making the stylish heat-retaining bags ever since.


Keeping up with being a vendor and managing her own business doesn’t seem to be much of a challenge for Nomntu.

“The thing is, on rainy days I don’t go to the traffic lights, rainy days are reserved for sewing at home,” she says,

“When I get a lot of orders I sometimes take a week off in order to complete them.” The mother of three lives in a shelter in Nyanga and one of her challenges is the limited space she has to stock and make her products. “I’m still trying to get a RDP house. With what’s happening now, sewing where I stay is a little bit difficult because I don’t have space,” she says.

As her clientele spans from her community to her Big Issue selling point at the traffic lights in Orange Street, Cape Town, managing orders can be a daunting task at times. When there is an influx in orders, Nomntu uses the opportunity to help other women in her community earn a living. They help to cut, iron and sew the materials together. 


The Wonderbags are used to store boiling pots of food on-the-go, keeping them warm for up to 12 hours. It’s no wonder there’s such a high demand for these non-electric portable slow cookers.

“There are a lot of people who know I sell the Wonderbags, so I get lots of orders from people in my community and at the robots where I sell The Big Issue,” she says.

Nomntu says that her customers help her when they purchase her bags and The Big Issue. Not only does she get support for her entrepreneurial endeavours, but she also gets word-of-mouth advertising. One of her clients has gone the extra mile to help the seamstress succeed.

“The business cards sponsored by one of my customers are also a huge help when it comes to attracting more customers,” she says thankfully.

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