Making a killing out of leather
UNDER MY SKIN: Ngwanathebe at work

For the last six years, a 40-year-old woman from Lekgwapheng ward in Molepolole has enjoyed a comfortable living from the fruitful proceeds of an under-practiced vocation.

Armed with just a Form 2 Junior Certificate (JC), the impressive Tumisang Ngwanathebe has successfully made leather her business.

The self-made businesswoman founded Skin & Things Consultancy back in 2010, after adopting an idea from her grandmother and other family members.

An earlier posting with the village veterinary hides and skin department, which taught Ngwanathebe the basic skills required to turn animal skins into sellable merchandise, has proved an invaluable basis for the venture.

Ngwanathebe’s enterprise primarily sells flowerpots, leather shoes, jackets and traditional mats (diphate), which are designed using both domestic and wild animal skins.

“I supply government departments, designers, foreigners and individuals locally. Most of my customers are from the north, especially in Mahalapye. They buy traditional mats for weddings whereas foreigners, mainly from China, buy wild animal leather products as they do not have many wild animals in their country,” she explained.

One of the more eye-catching items currently available from Skin & Things Consultancy is a magnificent zebra skin, available for the stately sum of P26, 000.

Describing ‘passion and patience’ as integral traits to succeeding in business, Ngwanathebe told Voice Money that there are big profits to be made in the leather industry.

According to Ngwanathebe, a lion hide costs around P2, 000 at auction but can be sold for as much as P29, 000 as a finished product.

Although it is something that has never been taught at school, Ngwanathebe believes the industry has the potential to really take off in the country. “Leather work has a bright future as you can earn from both raw and tanned leather. It can take Botswana forward, put this country on the map and lift it higher and higher,” she stressed enthusiastically.

The talented businesswoman is the proud owner of numerous awards, including winning first prize at the 2014 and 2015 women’s expos and the 2014 consumer fair, and is currently in contention for the Women in Business Association’s (WIBA) 2016 excellence awards competition.

The winner will be announced on the 21st of October, and should Ngwanathebe emerge victorious she has pledged to use the prize money to buy machinery and build an art college in Molepolole.

“I have also applied for a gender affairs grant to assist me and willing to employ two more Batswana. I also wish to sell abroad,” she revealed ambitiously.

The hardworking, selfless Ngwanathebe is currently engaged by Ministry of Education and Skills Development to assist art students in junior schools. Her talents have also attracted the attention of a number of colleges interested in utilising her expertise.