Lucrative business is child’s play for mom
Molemo wanted a doll her young daughter could relate to
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.”
Molemo Kgomo, founder and CEO of Ntombenhledolls.