Woman on top – Ke­gob­ot­jeng Makua

KE­GOB­OT­JENG MAKUA, 38, is us­ing her in­te­rior de­sign skills to cre­ate unique and up­lift­ing hospi­tal en­vi­ron­ments.

True Love - - Contents - By SISONKE LABASE

“YOU MUST FIGHT FOR PER­FEC­TION AND NOT SET­TLE FOR MEDI­OCRITY.”

Ke­gob­ot­jeng Makua is an in­te­rior de­signer whose com­pany, e5 Cre­ations, spe­cialises in in­te­ri­ors for the health sec­tor. When her brother, Sabi, passed away from a brain tu­mour in 2008, she was in­spired to change the spa­ces she’d come to know in the years her brother bat­tled his ill­ness. “I wanted to make hos­pi­tals more homely and warm,” says Kego, as she’s af­fec­tion­ately known. “Af­ter Sabi’s pass­ing, I felt my en­ergy be­ing di­rected to­wards mak­ing the health­care space more com­fort­able.”

Kego was born in Soshanguve in Gaut­eng and comes from a tight-knit fam­ily. They moved to Cape Town when her mother got a new job in Par­lia­ment, and moved back to Gaut­eng in 2001. “Sabi was the old­est, then me, then an­other brother and sis­ter. We sib­lings have al­ways been close.”

Kego stud­ied fash­ion de­sign at Cape Tech­nikon (now the Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy). Af­ter var­sity, she and Sabi, who had stud­ied mar­ket­ing, took their mother’s ad­vice not to work for any­one but them­selves. They founded e5 Cre­ations to merge their skill sets and pas­sions. They moved back to Soshanguve in 2001 af­ter Sabi was di­ag­nosed with the tu­mour so that he could un­dergo surgery. “We started the com­pany to­gether in 2001 from our home so that Sabi could have chemo­ther­apy, sleep off the ef­fects and go back to work af­ter lunch. We de­signed and made the demo items our­selves, even print­ing the fab­rics. We fo­cused on de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing for of­fices and homes. My mother backed us fi­nan­cially, and my sis­ter, who is a char­tered ac­coun­tant, did the books.”

e5 Cre­ations now em­ploys a team of seven and has moved to big­ger premises

in Park­town Es­tate in Pre­to­ria. “On the one side of the premises is my mother’s home, and on the other is the of­fice,” she says. “Now my mom wants to move, so we can turn the en­tire space into of­fices.”

Sabi went into re­mis­sion for a while, but then his can­cer resur­faced and he suc­cumbed to the ill­ness in 2008. He co-owned the com­pany, and Kego thought that do­ing it alone would be too hard – un­til she chan­nelled her grief in a new and pos­i­tive di­rec­tion.

“I was de­pressed. Then I re­alised that I’d seen so many hos­pi­tals dur­ing Sabi’s ill­ness. I ended up trans­fer­ring my pain to those im­ages, and that’s when the idea came to me to re­fur­bish hos­pi­tals. I did a pro­posal for the Busamed Health Group and ex­plained that I wanted to bring warmth to the pri­vate hos­pi­tals they were run­ning. I know they’re clin­i­cal, but they can be homely. I shared my vi­sion with Busamed’s direc­tor, Dr Diliza Mji, who loved my con­cept. I got a blank can­vas to cre­ate and do what I wanted.

“I have to think about aes­thet­ics as well as func­tion­al­ity – for the pa­tients, staff and vis­i­tors. I jug­gle my bud­get with qual­ity that will last for many years. I al­ways keep the peo­ple and ly­ing there in mind. For in­stance, the theatres are pur­ple be­cause it’s a colour of strength, and you want the pa­tient and the doc­tor to feel that. Colour is very im­por­tant.” So are the de­tails, she adds. “It’s the lit­tle things – from the sig­nage to the floors and walls, through to know­ing which fab­rics to use in cer­tain spa­ces, and so on.”

Clearly Kego loves what she does. “I’ve had to fight to be taken se­ri­ously be­cause I’m a young black woman. I’ve had rows at site meet­ings to stop peo­ple from bul­ly­ing me. I have to be firm and say, ‘I want it this way, and that’s fi­nal’. I’ve learnt that you have to know and un­der­stand the value you bring to the pro­ject. You must fight for per­fec­tion and not set­tle for medi­ocrity.”

“My first com­mis­sion was Busamed Paarde­vlei Pri­vate Hospi­tal in the West­ern Cape and to see my work still stand­ing is amaz­ing. But what gives me but­ter­flies is go­ing back to visit hos­pi­tals like the one we de­signed in Mod­der­fontein, and hear­ing that the staff love their new en­vi­ron­ment.” Kego is now look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to ven­ture out of the pri­vate health­care sec­tor and cre­ate more com­fort­able spa­ces in gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals too. “I love health­care. I don’t want to go back to what we did be­fore. I love this niche be­cause we keep abreast of the times. Go­ing for­ward, I’d wel­come the chal­lenge of working on pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties.”

As an en­tre­pre­neur and a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­woman, Kego lives life to the full be­cause los­ing her brother showed her how short life can be. “I love be­ing my own boss. Hav­ing my fam­ily in­volved in the busi­ness makes life eas­ier. I set my own working hours and have fun at work. I don’t take life too se­ri­ously. Life is meant to be lived, and that’s why I travel at least once a year.”

Kego is also a mother to a fiveyear-old son. “Hav­ing my fam­ily around makes it eas­ier for me to be away for months at a time. A great sup­port sys­tem is im­por­tant for any ca­reer­woman. I love what I do be­cause it doesn’t feel like a job. The day it does, I’ll know it’s time to quit!”■

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