Growing up in a family of farmers who survived on tanning and preserving leather, Tumisang Ngwanathebe developed the passion and decided to go commercial. Ngwanathebe told BusinessMonitor she realised that starting a tannery or leather processing unit is a lucrative business as leather is used to create a number of products.
She then approached the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security who assisted her to acquire the certificate of hides and skin. Ngwanathebe said the demand rose across the country as government engaged her to train people.
“They were impressed with what I was doing with the leather and started recommending me to train some keen locals. I then decided to accredit with the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) as a trainer,” she said. Trading under Skin and Things Consultancy, the company uses leather to manufacture wall mount, animal mount, rugs, phate or traditional mat, art and handicrafts, portraits, traditional flower pots, shoes, women’s and men’s belts, wallets and gift bags amongst others.
Ngwanathebe sources her leather mostly from individuals who slaughter for weddings, funerals, game ranches as well as abattoirs. She uses the cow, goat, sheep, donkey, and horse skins to mention but a few.
Her clientele boasts of both local and international buyers from Asia, Africa and the United States of America (US). “I am hands-on when it comes to marketing my business, and have been attending workshops and conferences where I usually interact with different people,” she said. As a member of the Women in Business Association (WIBA), she has managed to attend conferences in countries like Lesotho where she met potential clients. She also won the 2016 Gender Affairs award where she created an umbrella using leather.
“I once met two clients from the US who bought my stuff at Dithubaruba and was surprised when they called later demanding for more stuff. I once sold artwork to a Chinese man who also referred clients to me,” she said.
Exporting her products has not been an issue as she has an export permit and also a trophy dealer licence, which she got from the Department of Wildlife. Just like any other business, Ngwanathebe said the lockdown affected her business as she had classes lined up for training and couldn’t supply clients with leather as she did not have stock.
Touching on the challenges, she said funds have been the biggest hurdle for her businesses. She has, however, managed to approach financial institutions that are promising to fund her. “I want to construct a warehouse and start exporting my products because the demand is there. At the moment I can produce 5,000 belts in a day through the machinery that I bought,” she explained.