Inspirational people of KwaZulu-Natal
Reflecting on the “Inspirational People of KwaZulu-Natal” interview conducted a few years ago featuring Mark Sykes, our General Manager at NBI. We take great pride in having a dedicated management team and employees who are deeply committed to their roles and their local community.
Read the complete (updated) feature article below:
Currently I am the General Manager for National Braiding, which is based at Loskop in the Drakensberg area. This is a very remote region and we provide employment for +/-100 local community members. The only other manufacturer here is Bata Footwear behind us, so employment opportunities in the industrial sector are not abundant.
I grew up in Howick, so the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is in my blood. My career path took me to Johannesburg for a while, but I returned to KwaZulu-Natal in 2001 and joined the SA Bias Group in Estcourt in 2003. SA Bias is an international organisation with operations in South Africa, Europe and Australia. Our head office is based in Cape Town.
Being firmly entrenched in this rural community for many years takes our role beyond just braiding.
We have purchased the land next door and set up a creche for the children of our employees and those from Bata Footwear. We have sponsored all costs and ad hoc requirements for this facility. Through our sister company Narrowtex in Estcourt, the group has also built an extra classroom, with 25 PCs and software, to establish an IT facility at a local school.
Furthermore, we take in 10 to 15 young people on a one-year internship programme that provides them with a formal qualification in weaving and braiding. We started out predominantly in the production of shoelaces for Bata Footwear, but we have expanded our range to include ropes and cords. The group also exports to Australia and the African continent. We are also exploring the production of new high-tech products.
My wife is a teacher and, together with our two children, we enjoy the tranquillity of the Midlands. There is no hustle and bustle here, just a 20-minute scenic drive to and from work each day and the added pleasure of having the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains on our doorstep.