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Unique furniture creates jobs

Written by Ursula Graaff
When Lindy Ngwenya and her husband Lekau Mamabolo started their custom-made furniture business, they had no idea that it would become as successful as it is today.

The furniture factory, aptly named @Couch Designs, makes custom-made couches for clients in and around Mokopane in Limpopo.

Before starting the business, Ngwenya, her husband and a partner owned two franchise furniture stores. That, however, did not work out, and they decided to close shop.

“We never gave up on our dreams and decided to re-open the business - but this time only with my husband,” says Ngwenya.

It was while running their new business that they came across the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) offices - a few doors away.

“We approached Seda and asked them for assistance. However, at that time, Seda could not assist us because of the layout of our business.”

This did not deter Ngwenya and Mamabolo and they carried on with their business of selling furniture they got from suppliers.

The couple then decided to start manufacturing their own furniture in the store and sell it.

“It was becoming costly to outsource our furniture, so we decided to manufacture it inside the store, but on a small scale,” says Ngwenya.

After a few months, they decided to re-approach Seda for assistance. This time their application was successful.

“We went back and explained to them what we were doing. They then decided to assist us with our marketing.”

Since April 2014, Seda has been assisting the business with branding, marketing and financial clean up with the business.

A financial clean-up involves Seda sitting down with business owners to look at where the business stands financially; whether the business is viable and how Seda can help the business.

“Seda has really helped us a lot and helped us market our business on a large scale. They took us to home shows and sometimes we would sell our furniture there and people would place orders with us.”

The couple’s business has grown from making only beds and couches to making furniture for offices and apartments.

“We recently did furniture for a radio studio and for a church. Sometimes estate agents will call us to do the furniture for apartments in and around Limpopo.”

The business employs eight full-time staff (four of them youth) and one part-time employee. Tumisho Phihlela, an employee at @Couch Designs, says he enjoys his work because it keeps him busy.

“I enjoy my job. It keeps me off the street. I was not really good academically but I can do work with my hands. That is why I joined the company.”

Ngwenya’s advice to the youth is to work hard, persevere and be disciplined in how they manage their finances.

“Have a plan and do thorough research before starting anything.”

Ngwenya would like to expand the business into different countries and become a household name.

Joan Makhafola, from Seda, says @Couch Designs is creating jobs in the community and the passion the couple has for interior décor is evident.

“The clients decided to change from retail to a manufacturing company which means that they only have a few items on display and they can produce as per order,” she says.