Sipho Twala is a young furniture-maker who has gone from being unemployed to showcasing his beautiful creations at national and international exhibitions.
Twala is one of over 1 000 people who have been empowered to succeed through the Furniture Technology Centre Trust (Furntech).
Supported by the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), Furntech offers support to existing and start-up businesses in the furniture industry. The organisation targets a number of groups to be a part of its programmes, including unemployed people with a passion for furniture or woodwork.
Eighty-eight percent of Furntech’s clients are black-owned companies. More than 710 SMMEs are currently supported and 310 businesses have been started from the incubation programme itself. Furntech has also trained almost 7 000 learners, while creating 2 000 direct and indirect jobs.
Twala is one of the entrepreneurs who have made strides. In 2014, he trained in wood-machining and cabinet-making through a project offered by the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency.
“At that stage, I was unemployed, but I always had a passion for woodwork and design. When I completed the training, I started a co-operative with four other youngsters, but it did not succeed,” said Twala.
He subsequently found employment in the furniture industry, working as a machinist and learning new skills.
“My goal has always been to start and run my own business, but I did not have enough experience in the industry or the support I needed. In 2018 I started talks with the Furntech centre in Johannesburg. I was accepted into the incubation programme, I took a leap of faith and resigned from my job.”
Being part of the programme gave Twala access to a fully-equipped workshop, valuable business training, mentoring and marketing opportunities. In early 2019, his company Khwebula Arts was officially registered. Since then, his modern African furniture has been displayed at numerous exhibitions and is for sale at various local stores. He has also been invited to attend an exhibition in Milan, Italy, in April 2020.
*For information about Furntech, visit www.furntech.org.za.