Alive with Possibility Stories


Social Innovator: Natalie Killassy

Social Innovator Natalie Killassy

'What most businesses don't realise is that you just need to make a few changes to be able to employ disabled people' - Social Innovator Natalie Killassy (Photo: Stitch Wise)

CEO of Stitch Wise

Why is Natalie a Social Innovator?

Natalie grew up in the mining town of Carletonville, but knew nothing about the tough working conditions underground, or the many workers who are permanently disabled because of mining accidents.

When she did find out how serious the problem was, she decided she had to do something about it. But what?

Having no previous experience in the mines, Natalie did what any driven social entrepreneur would do - experience the environment first-hand. For the next 18 months, Natalie spent eight hours underground researching the safety conditions of the miners.

She then started Stitch Wise - a business that employs paraplegics injured on the mines to create innovative products that dramatically enhance safety in the mines.

In her own words

"What most businesses don't realise is that you just need to make a few changes to be able to employ disabled people, and through that process you can harness a huge pool of skills and opportunities for your business."

Fast Facts

  • Natalie and her husband Tim started Stitch Wise with R1. Eleven years later, Stitch Wise generates around R25-million in annual revenues.
  • Stitch Wise supplies 12 000 backfill bags a year to the mining industry and produces cutting-edge rainwear, knee and arm guards
  • .
  • Stitch Wise sets the industry standard in geo-textiles, and has captured 50% of the backfill market in South Africa.
  • The firm employs 128 workers, 50% of whom are differently-abled.
  • Recognition that their staff are not disabled but differently-abled is paramount to Stitch Wise's philosophy.
  • Great pride is taken in the company's empowerment programmes, as well as training, social upliftment and contribution to the development of South Africa's economy.
  • Natalie has received numerous nominations and prestigious awards, most recently a nomination for the Schwab Foundation Award.

How can I learn more?

To learn more about Natalie and her amazing team, visit Stitch Wise.

Contact Stitch Wise
Tel: 018 788 2622 / 5385
Fax: 018 786 3871
E-mail: office@stitchwise.co.za

Story first published on SAinfo on 25 April 2008.
Source: Brand South Africa

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