Her fascination with beads developed as a curious six-year-old. Whilst most girls her age were playing with dolls and barbies, Boitumelo Amanda Lebang was happiest when making artistic patterns using beads.
That passion never faded, recently evolving into an exciting new business venture for the South African born, Selebi-Phikwe bred lass.
From her street shop at Ntshe House in Francistown, Voice Money sat down with the talented, youthful (she refused to divulge her age, claiming a lady never reveals such information) Lebang to hear how her business, Talama Collection, was established.
“My love for beads and jewellery was inspired by my fashion conscious mother, who was half Zulu and half Venda, and wore bright colourful beads and clothes. It is a passion that has developed over the years into something as beautiful as this,” said the former Botho University employee, pointing to the stunning neckpieces she has on display.
With the limited knowledge of art she acquired during her days at Junior Secondary School, combined with in-depth reading on how to make jewellery, Lebang originally made earrings, bangles and necklaces for her friends.
“They are the ones who encouraged me to make and sell. Not for the money but just for the passion and love of wanting to make people look beautiful,” she explained, before continuing, “In 2015 I decided to turn my first love into a business – coincidently African ethnic colours and designs were trending and the ‘in thing’ at the time.
“Still employed, I single-handedly made the jewellery from home, spending long hours of the night finishing orders for work mates and customers who would place orders via my Facebook page.”
Using her personal savings, she designed and purchased materials to make orders for her handful of loyal clients.
“Even though the profits for my art pieces weren’t much, I wasn’t discouraged. What kept me going was that I was getting more and more orders from people,” said the determined designer indifferently.
Confident that her pieces were worthy of recognition, Lebang took part in last year’s Presidents’ Day competitions, where she was extremely successful.
“At the regional level I clinched position one and walked away with P2, 000. Then, at national competitions I came second and pocketed P8, 000. From that moment I knew I could make it,” she said with a proud, humble giggle.
Vindicated by this success, in February this year Lebang bravely traded her air-conditioned office job of eight years as an administrator at Botho University, and the guaranteed monthly pay cheque that came with it, for a stall in the street.
“My boss was shocked and asked what triggered my decision. He even asked if I had got a better paying job. All I said was I’m following my long treasured dream,” explained Lebang nonchalantly.
“I had saved enough to sustain me once I left my job. The passion and love for what I do combined with my willingness was more than the fear of the unknown,” laughs the director of Talama Collection, basking in the sunset light’s warm glow.
“I was so determined. Time was ripe for me to meet my growing customer base. With a full time job, I found myself unable to meet orders for the curio shops and boutiques I supply. I needed time to produce bulk orders for clients in Gaborone and South Africa,” she continued.
For Lebang, the four months she has spent selling under the shady thorn trees along the busy street between the city’s two prominent malls have been an eye opener.
“Although I make more than what I earned while working, it’s not really about the money. It’s more about getting my products into the market. Competition in this line isn’t bad because most curios shops get their jewellery from Kenya and East Africa which is very expensive, thus giving my pieces a competitive advantage,” highlighted the Business Management graduate.
Indeed business is currently thriving, as Lebang explains, “People are beginning to appreciate handmade jewellery.
Handmade products are trendy too. Not only do I make bulk orders, but also customised, personalised pieces, according to the client’s tastes.”
Apart from beads, Lebang uses ostrich eggshells from Ghanzi and fresh pearls from South Africa and also plans to incorporate leather into her designs soon.
The ambitious artist has big plans for the future, as she readily highlights, “I intend to own an accessory shop so I can supply and distribute my designs. Ultimately I plan to have an online shop, so clients all over the world can order their jewellery. I also see myself venturing into fashion designing.”
To commemorate the country’s golden jubilee Lebang intends to release pieces made specifically for the special independence celebrations.
“The pieces are limited souvenirs one should not miss out on and will be available by mid-August.”