Mmadibaga making money through Arts & Crafts
Maun-born Kelebogile Mocuminyane, aka Mmadibaga, is the creative mastermind behind Beads n’ Crafts – Mmadibaga, an arts and crafts enterprise that began as a side-hustle a decade ago.
Formerly in the financial services sector, the 47-year-old shares her entrepreneurial journey with Voice Woman, which enjoyed significant growth in 2020 – a rare happy consequence of strict lockdowns!
It is a venture born in the tourist town back in 2013, when Mocuminyane approached an experienced local beader simply known as Ausi Thandie.
“I had always been keen on arts and crafts and became interested in learning how to bead so I sought Ausi Thandie to teach me the art of beading. I started designing necklaces and earrings and would sell them within my locality of Maun. Thanks to my creativity and word of mouth, my jewelry earned me a steady source of income,” recalls the talented stringer, who has long since relocated to the capital.
In April 2020, when Covid-19 brought the entire world to a standstill, Mocuminyane remembered that indeed ‘April showers bring May flowers’.
She spent the period harnessing the power of the web to learn new skills as she saw a potential for growth.
“I scoured the Internet looking for fresh ideas, mainly on YouTube tutorial videos and inspiration on Pinterest. I learnt to make a wide array of accessories and bags. Once restrictions were lifted, I went to source leather to start designing my bags. Morongwa Stores along Old Lobatse Road, and Leather Stores, remain my go-to suppliers.
Leather products are usually the plain, natural beige color, so I need to dye them different colours. I also learnt the dyeing process on YouTube. Sometimes the dyes are not readily available locally, so I have to travel to South Africa to buy them,” she explains.
Fast forward to 2023 and the self-taught craftswoman has expanded her business to include more products such as decorative household items like wall clocks, key holders, trays and coasters.
Despite a minor setback owing to poor health earlier in the year, she has discovered a unique selling opportunity in her touristy region where she has supplied camps and lodges with some of her wares.
“I have had tremendous support from Wilderness Safaris. They bought about 210 earrings, 25 bags and coasters for their curio shops and camps. I have also supplied Sanctuary Safaris in Maun with leather belts and handbags, and Mophane tree coasters. I’ve added furniture items made from the Mophane tree like stools, household utensils like trays, as well as watches to my list of products, which I started creating this year; I do so many things,” she says proudly, adding she often wakes up in the middle of the night to sketch new designs.
Mocuminyana counts on the brilliance of her little sister, Tshepo Sethoko, whom she says ‘practically runs the business’, but plans to take advantage of Local Enterprise Authority Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development Training workshops.
“Tshepo is truly a blessing. She takes care of the branding and marketing, and manages my social media; in fact, she has advised me to rebrand from ‘Mmadibaga’ to ‘Kelly M’. Tshepo pushes me to consider not only scaling up but taking up courses. Thus, although I enjoy hand-making my products to achieve a rustic appeal, I hope to enrol for a course in Cape Town, South Africa to learn to use machinery, which will prepare me for big tenders. I’m aware of the fact that machine-manufactured items will save me time and money,” she says, adding her long-term plans include imparting these skills to the less privileged, especially those living with disability.
“The disabled are even closer to my heart in that I am certain once I’ve empowered them with these skills, they will eke out a decent living. Able-bodied youths usually lack focus since they have other skills and qualifications,” notes Mocuminyane, the mother-of-three boys aged 24, 21, and 6.
The creative lists the ‘slow’ winter season as one of the major challenges her business faces.
“Business usually slows down in the winter because clients prefer scarves over necklaces. Also, there are fewer social events. Occasionally, I attend weekend markets and similar events where I can sell my creations, but in winter they are few and far between. So, I am happy that the winter is over and I can look forward to a busy summer and festive season,” says Mocuminyane, who has showcased at several events like The Africa Tourism Leadership Forum and Awards.
For the nimble-witted Mmadibaga, owning a curio shop and training academy in future are key aspirations.
“I currently create and sell from home. It is time I open a store where clients can access my items easily. Though I enjoy using my hands, it is time-consuming; I plan to approach LEA or CEDA for funding.”