With families to feed and expenses to cover, these intrepid entrepreneurs tapped into their artistic skills to make ends meet.
They share their stories on how they are trying to survive.
Being illiterate has not stopped 73-year-old George Molele. For the last 29 years, the father-of-three has used his hands to survive, sculpting a living through his artistic instincts.
The youthful-looking grandfather uses glue, sticks and ‘any material I find useful’ to create his arty pieces.
Having lived in poverty for much of his early life, Molele started exporting sculptures from Malawi in 1984.
Realising he could earn slightly more if he made the products himself, Molele began manufacturing in 1989.
With the little he got, he hired an accountant to teach him how to manage his finances.
It proved to be a shrewd move as he has built a three-roomed house with his savings and is in the process of building a second home in Ramotswa.
Sharing some of his challenges, the pensioner noted that the only people interested in his sculptures are foreigners
“Batswana do not give us support, they want us to give them goods on credit or half price, ‘ moaned the sculpture maker, who can make up to P300 on a good day.
24-year-old Thabang Matlhaku is a sculptor from Mochudi who first became interested in art as a student at Gaborone Senior Secondary School and was later mentored by a close friend.
Having failed his Form 5 examinations and at a loss for what to do next, Matlhaku was struck by sudden inspiration.
He noticed that children no longer play with wired cars, unlike in his youth when they were a common sight. Determined to rekindle the toy’s popularity, he started making and selling them himself.
The cars proved a hit and so he added wire pots to his repertoire.
The talented youngster told Voice Money that working with wire has its challenges, the main one being suspicious police officers who frequently question him on where he gets his wire from.
“Rust is also a challenging factor, I have to find good materials and it’s expensive to maintain my sculptures,” explained Matlhaku, who started selling his wares at Main Mall a month ago and was able to buy new stock with the profits.
On a bad day he makes P400.
75-year-old Otukile Alfred Seleka has been fixing shoes for over 50 years. Indeed, he has worked as a cobbler for longer than Botswana has existed!
Seleka grew up in Pitsane and left school after Standard 5.
Back then, his future looked bleak. However, he was taught the art of fixing shoes by his uncle, which would prove to be his economic salvation.
Seleka took to the new skill like a perfectly fitting pair of slippers and opened his own stall in 1962, where he has been fixing shoes ever since.
The hawker buys his threads from hardware stores and although he complains about them being expensive, he explains that in a business like his, ‘you have to spend money to make money!’
“People cost us a lot of money from buying soles. They give us shoes to fix and never return for them. That’s a total waste of my time and money!” he griped.
Making an amount of P300 per day, Seleka, who is the sole provider for his family, has managed to enrol his nine children in school.
What started as a pastime to earn a little extra cash has evolved into a thriving business for 48-year-old Lillian Makgorotlha.
In 1999, the mother-of-three left her job as a maid to focus on her passion fulltime, sewing and making jewellery with beads.
She now dresses numerous traditional groups, Culture Spears being the most famous.
Makgorotlha, who also makes wedding attire, named the climate as one of her biggest challenges.
“Our clothes get drained and they lose their quality – business is slow during the rainy season,” she noted.
Despite this obstacle, business is booming.
“Tourists are my biggest customers, they love African wear. When they are here I can make P5, 000 in a day,” Makgorotlha revealed proudly, adding she has built herself a beautiful home and enrolled her kids in the best schools with the profits made from her business.