Spotlight on Women in Business: Jessica Molebatsi

Wife, Mother & Fashion entrepreneur on life and career in a male dominated industry

For this year’s National Women’s Day, I want to highlight women in business. I had the pleasure of chatting with wife, mother and business woman, Jessica Molebatsi of eponymous fashion label JessicaJane on how she balances running a business in a male dominated industry and raising a family.

There is this erroneous belief that women can’t have it all. But what does “having it all” even mean? While it may mean different things to different people, the general concept of having it all is the ability to raise a family, have a social life while also maintaining a successful career. Some women put the pursuit of raising a family on the backburner until they achieve a certain level of success in their career. Conversely, there are others, like entrepreneur Bushra Shaikh, who believe that it is best to first raise a family and only afterwards should your career take priority.

“Everything can’t be 100% all the time, but you learn as you go along.”

Jessica Molebatsi; wife, mother and entrepreneur admits that it’s not easy. “Everything can’t be 100% all the time,” she says, “but you learn as you go along.” During my chat with Jessica, we discuss the challenges of a woman running a business in a male dominated environment while raising a family. How she prioritises it all and what her advice would be to aspiring fashion designers.

Jessica’s passion for fashion began in her formative years. Her grandma used to sew and this inspired her to later study fashion design and eventually create her own clothing line, JessicaJane. Jessica remembers the start of her business venture as being very difficult. She had no capital and, having just moved from Durban to Johannesburg, no network. But her determination and dedication paid off. Over time and through word-of-mouth, her business grew.

Jessica’s appreciation for beauty and femininity is evident in her designs. Her latest winter collection is a surprising burst of colours and sequins that will appeal to the bold and feminine woman. Jessica believes that true style is not about standing out but being remembered.

On Business

Jessica is both the creative director and business manager of her brand; a task that she says is not for the faint of heart. Juggling both of these roles and the various responsibilities that they demand can be taxing, but she finds that the demands help to inspire her designs. As she often has to split her time juggling work and life pressures, she designs clothes for women with similar challenges. Women want to look good but not have to sacrifice the limited resource of time. Jessica designs classics that inspire women to look and feel their best.

While the South African fashion industry is growing, research conducted by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the South African Cotton Cluster show that designers who form part of the clothing and textile sector in South Africa contributed R1 billion to South Africa’s GDP in 2019. The country is recovering from the impact of Covid-19 and will continue to recover for years to come but Jessica’s hope is to see more government support of female designers.

There is tremendous opportunity to boost the economy and further growth by upskilling and creating jobs in the fashion industry.

On Life

Jessica believes in balance. She believes in taking each season as it comes. The start of the pandemic was a good time for her to slow her pace and spend more time with the family. As most working mothers, she, too, experiences mum-guilt, but the support of her husband makes it easier. When Jessica is not working or raising a family with her husband, she likes to relax by getting dressed up and going out to lunch, or staying at home to watch Netflix. Her latest guilty pleasure, she says, is a documentary about creative director Olivier Rousteing. It’s called Wonder Boy. The show is a look behind the scenes of how Rousteing brings his bold designs to life and goes in search of his origins.

Advice

“Just because you like fashion doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good fashion designer”.

When I ask Jessica what advice she would give to a budding fashion designer, she says: “Just because you like fashion doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good fashion designer”. As someone who studied Garment Construction myself, thinking I wanted to be a fashion designer, I couldn’t agree more.

Jessica’s favourite women empowerment quote is a remix of ‘empowered women empower women’. She says, “empowered women should empower other women.”

I completely agree. It is our responsibility as women to truly support and encourage one another to create a better future.

As I bid Jessica goodbye, I could not but think: “what an inspiration she is!”

Happy Women’s month.

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