Lu­cra­tive busi­ness is child’s play for mom

Molemo wanted a doll her young daugh­ter could re­late to

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - Ziyanda Mbolekwa

A JO­HAN­NES­BURG mother’s strug­gle to find a doll her one-yearold daugh­ter could re­late to has turned into a lu­cra­tive busi­ness for Molemo Kgomo, 46, and placed her on the world map.

Ten years ago Kgomo, the mother of two daugh­ters, started Nto­benhledolls, which can be trans­lated to “beau­ti­ful girls” in Zulu, and they have put smiles on the faces of young girls from as far afield as the UK.

Nto­benhledolls pro­duces eth­nic dolls with curly hair, dark skin and bright tra­di­tional at­tire that re­flect the rich her­itage in South Africa, Zim­babwe and Namibia .

“I wanted a doll my daugh­ter could iden­tify with,” says Kgomo.

The dolls are man­u­fac­tured in China, while she de­signs the cloth­ing and fi­nal pack­ag­ing her­self.

“I vis­ited a few doll man­u­fac­tur­ers in China and told them my plan and vi­sions, and that is how Ntombenhledolls was es­tab­lished.”

Al­though Kgomo says it is not easy man­u­fac­tur­ing over­seas, she still re­gards it as the best op­tion be­cause it is cheaper.

“Fund­ing is re­ally not easy if one is man­u­fac­tur­ing over­seas. The ma­chines are quite ex­pen­sive and one needs to have huge or­ders to be able to get fund­ing and man­u­fac­ture lo­cally and to keep the busi­ness sus­tain­able.”

Be­fore start­ing Nto­benhledolls, Kgomo was a flight at­ten­dant, which she de­scribes as an eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. “Trav­el­ling was my life and it opened a new world for me,” she says.

The Ntombenhledolls are pop­u­lar in South Africa, the UK, Namibia and the US.

“The sup­port has been so over­whelm­ing from the pub­lic, lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” she says.

“I am cur­rently sell­ing the dolls on­line and will be work­ing on get­ting the brand into re­tail stores to make it easy for peo­ple who do not have in­ter­net ac­cess to be aware of my prod­uct.”

Kgomo says she wants her daugh­ters to have the same val­ues that were in­stilled in her by her mother.

“I am fol­low­ing in my mother’s foot­steps with the way she brought us up.

“She wanted us to em­brace who and what we are and al­low our­selves to ex­plore with­out any lim­i­ta­tions.

“I want my girls to be and do ex­actly that.”

With a new pro­ject in the pipe­line, Kgomo couldn’t hold back her ex­cite­ment.

“On this up­com­ing pro­ject of a new doll, I am go­ing to work with some­one and we have al­ready started on the sam­ples. This is so ex­hil­a­rat­ing and I can’t wait for the fi­nal prod­uct,” she said.

It was not al­ways easy for Kgomo, but, she says, ob­sta­cles are inevitable in any busi­ness ven­ture.

In 2014 Ntombenhledolls hit rock bot­tom, when sales dropped and the busi­ness was not mak­ing money.

She then de­cided to ven­ture into an­other busi­ness for three years along­side her part­ners as a steel mer­chant.

“I re­mem­ber that at some point I wanted to give up and give the en­tire stock to char­ity and move on to some­thing else.”

She says she is glad that she did not.

“Look­ing back at my busi­ness jour­ney, I would not trade Ntombenhledolls for any­thing.

“It means so much to me, my girls and my cus­tomers.”

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Molemo Kgomo, founder and CEO of Ntombenhledolls.

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