Angelina Masuku, 41, from KwaHlabisa, north of KwaZulu-Natal, is a living example that hard work and dedication are key ingredients in making dreams come true.
Without any formal education Masuku is using a skill she learnt at a young age to make laundry baskets, chairs, wall hangings, jewellery boxes centre tables and big baskets. The products are exported to Atlanta in the United States of America and to Disneyland.
She also trains unemployed women and youth to help them to provide for their families. Masuku told Vuk’uzenzele that her father passed on while she was in Grade 10. Her mother could not afford to pay for her schooling and she was forced to drop out of school. She stayed with her aunt who taught her how to make baskets using bamboo tree, not knowing that one day her products would be in demand worldwide.
“I also taught my four young sisters and my children the skill that my aunt taught me. We supplied the craft company Ilala with weaves from Hluhluwe. In 2006 I approached the African Art Centre in Durban. They really liked our work and we started supplying to them as well. African Art Centre opened doors for me and helped me enter the Craft Council Competition. I won the first and second prize for the work I submitted and walked away with R50 000,” she said.
Other doors then opened for her and she started getting invitations from Germany, Italy and other countries to showcase her work. In 2008 she approached the Small Business Development Agency to help her open a company. She is now supplying the South African Lifestyle Hub in Atlanta and Disneyland with over 200 baskets a month.
Deputy Minister of Small Business Develop-ment Elizabeth Thabethe officially opened a permanent South African showroom in Atlanta in 2013, to help promote locally manufactured products and to facilitate access to markets for many unknown artists and emerging entrepreneurs. The partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture, under the stewardship of Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi, saw local crafters accessing comprehensive support that ensures that they get the support they need to gain access to international markets.
Masuku said that in Atlanta orders are placed via a catalogue sent to interested customers and that she has 25 women assisting her. “As soon as I get paid I give them their money for the baskets they have supplied. I am now working on a deal in the United Kingdom. I will need more hands to help me deliver that order as soon as it goes ahead,” she said.
Masuku said that she makes baskets using bamboo, which she paints with natural products. “I believe that by making our products as natural as possible we get more clients,” she said.
Masuku’s advice for other entrepreneurs is simple. “Never be afraid to start a business. Education shouldn’t be a barrier. I don't have a formal education but I can go overseas and make business deals. Do not be afraid to ask for advice, it will empower you,” she said.
Masuku said those who are interested in skills to make baskets can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 072 109 9329.