Nailed it

Christinah Motlhabane
BUSY: Matty (yellow bucket hat) doing her thing

Marvellous Matty and her magic hands

There is little room for maneuver around Matlhogonolo Nello Lekopa’s cramped work space.

The small table heaves with tiny bottles of nail polish, acrylics and acetone, while every chair is occupied by clients, waiting patiently for their appointment with the 36-year-old nail technician, known fondly as ‘Matty’ on the streets of Ghetto.

This laid-back hive of activity is a common sight at Lekopa’s stall, nestled amid several similar enterprises on the roadside between Ntshe House carpark and Engen filling station in downtown Francistown.

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Although she has only been ‘doing nails’ since 2019, through hard-work and perseverance, the Gobojango native has swiftly established herself as one of the very best in the business. The constant crowd around her stall is a testament to this!

“It’s non-stop, I’m always busy,” exclaims the bubbly mother-of-two, who is quick to add, “I’m not complaining!”

For the former FSS student, this success is all the more surprising considering she never had any previous interest in the beauty industry nor has she undergone any formal training.

In fact, when she started, Lekopa had no plans to make money out of nails, intending to learn the skill as a hobby to pass the time at home.

“I was selling clothes back then and I also watched people doing nails. I decided to teach myself, watching tutorials on YouTube. I bought my materials in South Africa as they have good gels, and thought to myself, why not try doing nails on my clothes customers to earn a little bit extra cash. Guess what, the first weeks started on a high pitch, there was lots of interest,” remembers Lekopa, who has made her reputation for her creative, colourful styles and their long-lasting durability.

Her easy-going, friendly nature – she’s seemingly always smiling! – also plays a part in her growing appeal, with clients coming for a chat and a catch-up almost as much as having their nails done.

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Specialising in both manicures and pedicures, Lekopa offers cuticle grooming, applying polish and gloss as well as synthetic nail treatments. These came in all shapes and sizes, including: coffin, oval, round and square.

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EYE-CATCHING: Matty is known for her creativity and colour

With prices ranging from P70 to P150, during her peak days she can attend to over 20 customers.

“It’s always busiest at month end, when people have been paid. On a slow day, I’ll have maybe five clients, so it does vary quite drastically,” admits the nail tech, speaking to Voice Money while simultaneously filing down a young lady’s nails, her practiced hands moving carefully yet with astonishing speed.

Although her clientele is dominated by ladies, she also caters for children and even men.

While the bulk of her time is spent at her street-side stall, Lekopa is available for house calls, and is often booked for weddings and parties.

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In an oversubscribed field where competition is fierce – Voice Money counted at least four ladies offering the same service in the nearby vicinity – Lekopa stands out for her quality as well as her versatility.

“I can’t say I have competition because I am always busy; even on a bad day, I get few customers, I never go home without a customer. I provide my customers with everything they need: what they want is what they get not the other way round. And my nails stick for so long. I also make sure I stay on top of the latest nail trend like acrylics and gel nail sets,” she reveals, her trademark smile lighting up her ‘yellow-bone’ features.

Going forward, Lekopa dreams of one day opening her own beauty spa, where, besides nails, she intends to offer massages, facials and sell beauty products.

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WOMAN AT WORK: As well as nails, the technician also does eyebrows
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