Empowerment incubation is a strategy to address unemployment in South Africa. It was determined during 2013 that 50% of jobs were lost in the South African Clothing and Textile Industry since 2003. Contrariwise, this situation has presented opportunities for prevailing local fashion design businesses to collaborate on government funded initiatives that promote transformation and empowerment linked to entrepreneurial opportunities. Consequently there has been a sharp increase over the last five years of hubs, centers of excellence and incubators that provide experiential learning opportunities, business support as well as access to expertise and into the marketplace to candidates who aspire to find ways to improve their own socio-economic circumstances through an entrepreneurial career route. The candidates selected for these initiatives often include aspiring designers with insufficient access to formal training opportunities. These candidates would typically embrace an incubation programme that incorporates vocational training due to the advocated prospects of an improved future.
This paper reports on the principles needed to guide an incubation model for a fashion design incubation hub that offers training programmes on the relevant vocational, as well as business skills. The research was required to guide the re-design of an incubation model, because the drop-out rate was 50% within the first six months after inception. The research problem addressed in this paper revolves around the question: which principles should a selected hub incorporate in the incubation model to adhere to ethical conduct pertaining to the transformation of aspiring candidates into fashion design entrepreneurs? In-depth interviews with three social entrepreneurs enabled the researcher to identify the principles that could guide the model of an incubation hub that needs to follow an approach which aims to transform and empower aspiring fashion designers into fashion design entrepreneurs.
Empirical data is presented from the researcher’s interviews and reflections on the uncomfortable truth discovered during interviews. The identified principles provide some guidance for the selection, support and realistic results that empowerment incubation hubs should keep in mind. The identified principles can enable empowerment incubators to be more accountable for the results that they promise.