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Lockdown Lesson: Turn Your Side Hustle Into A Business

Writer and journalist Martie Swanepoel lost her main source of income when the Covid-19 pandemic crippled the economy. Rather than throw herself a pity party, Martie chose to open a new door of opportunity... an online textile business called Martaki.


Martie Swanepoel, founder of Martaki.

Martie, who has an artistic background and makes textile art as a hobby, decided to turn her talent into a business after losing her job. Within just an hour of Martaki being in operation, Martie made her first sale. “During the first week of lockdown, I received the sad news that Caxton [Caxton and CTP Publishing and Printers] will be closing down their magazine division. As a freelance writer, that was my main source of income. I spent a few days feeling sorry for myself and then decided to open a new door. People loved my textile art, so I decided it was time I developed it into a business.” says Martie.

“With my media experience, I know that online is the trend for the future. I knew my potential market because I had tested my products on industry trendsetters. It’s easier to reach your target market [online] and I am an active social media user. I regard it as a powerful marketing tool. Plus, I travel a lot and I need a business that can travel on my laptop with me.”

Learning the art of creating since the early 80s, Martie used to sew her own outfits. She claims she always wanted to do her own thing and never liked working from a pattern.

“Over the years, I have made art dolls, textile jewellery and scarves. The process of making art textiles is long and tiring, yet rewarding. I play with many printing techniques and I have watched many YouTube videos, but we all know you don’t always get the same results as seen on Pinterest or Youtube. I experiment with techniques until I find one that works for me. I use natural leaves, natural fibre, and a chemical process to draw the natural dyes from the leaves. For the dying process, I use ultra-massive pots and to get one I needed a special permit [under strict levels of lockdown] as shops weren’t allowed to sell such,” she adds.



The mother of four is a firm believer in always having a plan B, since plans don’t always play out the way we want. Martie says she taught her children that money might dry up, but your plans must always flow like a river - and she lives up to that statement.





“During my career, I faced retrenchment twice. My husband died in 2008 and I had children to take care of. I opened my own doors of opportunity through markets and festivals, as my salary as a journalist was never sufficient and I have always had a second income. I made textile jewellery, art dolls, cheese, pasta, spices. Daydreaming is okay, but to make those dreams a reality takes discipline. I have written a few novels and people often ask me: how do you write a book? You sit on your bum and write it for hours and hours! That’s the only way to do it. The process I use for my textile art is physical hard work, but I reap the rewards,” Martie says.


Martaki is also available on Instagram and Facebook.


Author: Yonga Balfour