The following year, Donegan and Tewary set up their own home textiles company, Opus1, above Donegan's garage in La Lucia, later moving to larger premises in Glenashley.
With their combined depth of experience in the textile industry, gained at David Whitehead & Sons (Tongaat), the Frame Group (Durban), Da Gama Textiles (East London) and Mooi River Home Textiles (Mooi River), Donegan and Tewary had serviced the retail sector successfully for many years.
"Opus1 is a design-led company whose aim is to offer competitively priced packaged-product with the same quality, look and appeal of exclusive decorator-styled curtains and bed linen," said Tewary.
"Our collections are a blend of contemporary and classic styling, designed to reflect international trends while taking into account South African lifestyle requirements and the specific needs of our individual customers," she explained.
Fabrics include cotton percales with embroidered and print applications, plain dyed and printed cotton and polyester/cotton sheeting, Jacquard and dobby weaves for bedding and curtains, as well as velvets, velours and chenilles for curtains, throws and cushions.
"The government's intervention to support the home textiles industry by creating a rebate provision, Item 311.42, has enabled us to be internationally competitive," said Donegan.
The rebate allows specific fabrics for the manufacture of home textile products to be imported duty free as they are unobtainable from South African producers.
"This enables us to beneficiate Chinese goods utilising the manufacturing base that China now offers," Donegan explained.
"And when we have developed sophisticated product collections, our Chinese suppliers have the benefit of being able to offer these collections to their own clients at leading international home textile fairs," he added.
The successful expansion of home textiles producer Opus1, which moved to Tongaat in January last year, is a positive development for an area hard-hit by the collapse of the textile and clothing industries and rising unemployment.
From 2004 to 2010, at least 80,000 jobs were lost in the textile industry nationally, with 50 companies closing down in 2009.
KwaZulu-Natal's textile industry was one of the biggest industries in the province and its decimation resulted in large-scale retrenchments and hardship for the many skilled workers who had helped to build this once vibrant sector.
Opus1's expansion is the result of a successful joint venture with Gijima KZN Local Economic Development Support Programme, an initiative of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDT).
The programme is designed to help grow local economies in KZN by investing in sustainable local partnerships which attract private and public sector investment, resulting in job creation and the promotion of rural development.
Mike Mabuyakhulu MPP, KZN Member of the Executive Council (MEC), will visit Opus1 with the Mayor of eThekwini, Councillor James Nxumalo, last Friday to tour the operation and commend the achievements of the joint venture team and the workforce.
When Opus1 transferred its operation from Mount Edgecombe to Tongaat, the company had 11 employees and initially set up one production line.
Eighteen months later, production has expanded to eight manufacturing lines with a workforce of 116 skilled employees. Many had been employed previously in the textile and clothing industries and the largely female team now includes male machinists.
Opus1's product range comprises high quality curtains, bedding, throws, scatter cushions and table linen. During the financial year March 2011 to February 2012, Opus1 produced 410,000 units and this financial year will increase the number to an estimated 950,000 units.
Turnover is set to more than double from R20 million in February 2011 to R54 million in February 2013.
Commenting on their partnership with Gijima KZN, Donegan said it demonstrated that partnerships between government and the private sector could work if they were managed well.
Opus1 is currently exploring opportunities for exporting into the SADC region. At present the focus is on Angola, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe.