Sunday World

How to transform your passion into a profitable venture

Use your talents to build a business,

- Writes Kerry Haggard

Pretoria’s Hosea Matlou was on a journey to become an accountant, when he discovered and followed a passion for visual art. After establishi­ng himself in this competitiv­e world, he tried making more functional art, and shifted his focus to making furniture.

He had already worked at a framing company, where he learnt the intricate detail of working with wood and other materials, but apart from those initial skills, Hosea has learnt all of his carpentry skills by watching and learning from others, and some by trial and error.

When he first launched Hosea Studios, he continued with framing, but soon started making items of furniture, using his imaginatio­n and the skills he already had, to make original items. “I particular­ly love working with reclaimed wood, and using it to sculpt unusual features for the furniture I make,” Hosea says. “Old wood has so much character, and there’s a special joy in saving it from buildings that are going to be demolished. Each piece of wood has its own story, and has seen history play out in front of it – it’s an honour to give it new life and new purpose.”

His craftsmans­hip has become renowned across the country, and now he makes custom designed pieces for interior designers and private clients across the country. While he does supply items to some stores for sale, he doesn’t have his own shop – but if you go past his workshop from time to time, his works will be available for sale there too.

His works are of all sizes, and one of the most sought after items he makes is a round mirror with a handcrafte­d frame, that sell almost as soon as he makes them.

“I mostly use Facebook Marketplac­e to sell the items I make that haven’t been ordered by a particular client, which is why it’s essential for me to have access to online via my phone,” he says. “Being connected to customers who would otherwise never have found me has been particular­ly helpful during the last two years of Covid-19, especially at the beginning when nobody could move around.”

Hosea is most proud of the other people he has helped in the 12 years of running Hosea Studios. In addition to one full-time employee, who he has been teaching for five years and who now makes furniture on his own, Hosea has a network of 10 other carpentry artisans, whom he calls on to help with big projects.

He also shares his carpentry skills with young people at the Hatfieldba­sed Reliable House Harm Reduction Centre, a shelter that offers a range of services to community members.

Hosea has funded the growth of his business himself, though once he was well establishe­d, he qualified for funding from the department of trade and industry. He was also included in a Pernod Ricard campaign during the 2021 festive season, which introduced his work to the brand’s customers, and will give him access to an incubation programme later this year.

Asked for advice for other artisans who might be thinking of starting their own businesses, Hosea has some solid advice to offer:

Check out the market

However much you love your craft, and your family might think your ideas are great, do some market research so that you can be sure that other people want to buy what you make.

Keep an eye on cashflow

While many of Hosea’s projects are made from reclaimed wood, his raw materials are expensive. That’s why he insists on a deposit when big projects are ordered, so that he can protect his cashflow until the job is complete.

Reinvest in your business, and yourself

I love working with reclaimed wood

When your business has good money in the bank, don’t run off on a spending spree for things you don’t need! Rather buy any equipment that your business needs to improve or grow, and invest in improving your own skills too. Those new skills might be beyond your craft, but could be something essential like learning more about accounting, or different ways to market your product.

You can find Hosea on Facebook under “Hosea M Matlou”.

He offered these tips to South African entreprene­urs as part of MTN’S Made for Skhokho initiative, an exciting business and networking event that supports entreprene­urs by connecting them with business experts and other local business owners.

MTN’S Made for Skhokho payas-you-go bundles help emerging entreprene­urs keep connected via tailored data and connectivi­ty packages that have been designed to meet their needs: easy sign up, wide network coverage, no formal business registrati­on needed, access to social media and tailored for use during business hours, to help them reach more customers.

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Hosea Matlou

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