One of the ways to start a business with no capital is to use a raw material that is considered waste. Admittedly a lot of recycling businesses are labour intensive; today we look at something less labour intensive that can be made with a material that is widely available: denim.
There are three things that is required for success in this business:
1. Sewing skills
2. A supply of free or cheap jeans and t-shirts
3. A place to sell end product (bags in this case)
Sewing is an easy skill to learn with numerous tutorials all over the internet, it is also a skill that does not require expensive equipment and materials (a needle and cotton is suffice). Sewing can also be practiced and perfected by working on old clothing. Look at the end of the page for various online bag making courses.
Supply of free and cheap jeans and t-shirts
The second component required for success is the raw material, in this case it is either a t-shirt or jeans. The first place to tap into is friends and family, tell them that you would like to start a business (either full time or side line) making bags from recycled clothing and it does not matter the condition of the item. The next place to source cheap jeans is flea markets and charity shops, look for specials, especially unpopular sizes which are usually marked down for next to nothing.
Sales channel (a place to sell the end product)
This is what will make or break this business, how will you bring your product to market? Etsy doesn’t really have traction in SA, nor have the equivalents taken off, which is a pity as this could have helped with the high unemployment rate in SA.
Online marketplaces with existing traffic is Gumtree and bidorbuy and these types of products don’t do well on either (not that it should stop you from trying).
Your best bet is to sell at various markets, like earth fair and handmade markets; you don’t need to have your own stall (especially if you only have one product).
Online you can check out various Facebook groups where similar items are sold. Handmade does have its supporters.
If you are only making bags it may not be worth your while to create your own website or have your own stall unless you are creating a whole range of different bags with different designs or you expand into doing other stuff like wallets. You can also create different designs like handbags, tote, nappy, gym and other types of bags.
Beginner Sewing: Making a Tote Bag – A complete instructional guide for creating a sewn, lined, tote bag.
Learn to sew fabric and leather tote handbags – A step by step video-based guide to crafting fabric and leather handbags
Sewing: Making a Tote bag using recycled jeans – Recycling a pair of jeans into a stylish tote bag
How to Sew a Patchwork Scrap Zipper Bag – Learn how to use several techniques while making a cute zipper bag.
How to turn a graphic t-shirt into a cosmetic bag – Turn your favorite t-shirt into a cute zipper bag.