Love for leather

Tshepo Kehimile
ENTREPRENEUR: tendani Sibanda

Fresh from scooping the #PushaBW Award at last month’s Global Expo Botswana, and counting the First Lady, Neo Masisi as a previous client, MKLA Africa are fast making their mark.

Run by husband and wife duo, McFarlane and Tendani Sibanda, the business specialises in leather, expertly producing a variety of handmade products from scratch.

Items manufactured range from: bags, office accessories, wallets, belts, home goods, coasters, key chains and knife sheaths.

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It is an enterprise 13 years in the making, with its roots dating back to 2009.

“Back then we made canvas shopping totes meant to minimize the use of plastic bags, but we knew very little about selling. We were just creatives with no business acumen. Needless to say, that venture never took off as we gave up too quickly,” recalls a nostalgic Tendani.

Although MKLA Africa was not officially registered until 2020, by that point the couple had been producing leather goods for five years.

“We make products for work, home, outdoor, travel, and daily utility,” explains the Maitengwe native, whose company is based in Metsimotlhabe.

The couple pride themselves on the personal touch and offering quality, long-lasting products.

“We also offer personalization to make each product uniquely yours. We believe in making products that will last you a lifetime, that is why we have resorted to using 100 percent vegetable-tanned leather and quality hardware materials,” Tendani tells Voice Money.

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Having made a leather tote bag for Mma Masisi, a gift commissioned by The Fields Mall, MKLA Africa’s customer list includes a number of high-profile names.

“We have also done corporate branded products for entities such as Debswana, Botswana Insurance Limited Holdings (BIHL), Ministry of Finance, and SEZA just to mention a few.”

As for the inevitable challenges, Tendani admits there are four that spring to mind immediately: financing, access to raw materials, capacity, and pricing competitiveness.

“As a self-funded business, we do not always have funds to order raw materials in bulk so that can result in loss of business opportunities. With regards to pricing competitiveness, our products are not mass-produced and some of the leather products in the market are made from faux leather, which is cheaper than authentic leather. There is an expectation for our products to be priced the same, which puts us at a disadvantage as raw materials and manufacturing processes we use are not similar,” she notes wryly.

Tendani further points out Botswana has no leather tanneries and that it is costly to source leather outside the country.

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“The successful opening of Lobatse Leather Park will be of great help to us,” she adds as a positive aside.

Her outlook is similarly optimistic for MKLA Africa’s future, as Tendani concludes, “We would like to have an active online store so that we offer our customers convenience while growing the brand locally and internationally. In addition, we also like to move to a bigger space so that we create employment for local artisans.”

CREATIVE: Tendani’s leather products
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