Textile designer and businesswoman Nthabi Lephoko has set her sights on taking South Africa’s leather goods industry to the world.
Lephoko is the head designer and director of Leratolethato, her own leather design and manufacturing company based in Cape Town.
Lephoko was inspired to start her business in 2011 while conducting a feasibility study on animal skin and hides with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).
“I was inspired by the opportunities in this sector, and have never looked back. I was able to establish my company which currently employs six people, and I am definitely looking forward to expanding operations,” she said,
Her company produces a variety of fashion products such as card holders, wallets, leather belts, handbags and clothing.
“I also do a furniture range where I manufacture cushions, chairs and couches,” said Lephoko.
Lephoko’s depth of knowledge in management and marketing has allowed her to grow her business in local markets.
“The local reception for my range of products has been interesting. I have had the opportunity to supply small niche boutiques. I have always been targeting a niche market and I have a passion for that particular market. I have an understanding that there is a great buying power within that market,” she said.
Creating an attractive product that appeals to a wider market was also on the cards for her business, said Lephoko.
“In terms of managing cash flow it is important to always have an entry product which can be targeted at the mainstream market. The only way that one can master that is when one expands so that we are able to manufacture more and trigger a positive cash flow.”
Lephoko wants to establish a lasting legacy that adds sustainable value to the local creative industry. She already has plans to grow her business and achieve this ideal.
“I am looking at establishing an incubator which will focus on leather manufacturing where I can share my skills with other people. Part of the reasons I would like to expand and eventually establish an incubator is to get the kind of support I need and the kind of quality control that would enable me to meet standards internationally,” she said.
The Department of Trade and Industry (dti), through the Production Incentives Programme (PIP) within the Clothing and Textiles Competitiveness Programme (CTCP), approved R4.9 billion to create and save jobs in the sector last year. In addition, more than R3.1 billion was disbursed until the financial year 2016/2017.
Throughout the sector, a number of companies which qualified and drew from both programmes, were able to save 81 252 jobs. An additional 9 672 jobs were created and the net new jobs grew by 4 785 until the financial year 2016/2017 since the inception of the CTCP.