is a full-time geologist and has been running Urbnature, a wooden accessories and watches business, since 2015.
‘It took me a while to realise I had 24 hours in a day, and I was only using nine of them. When that hit me, I made it a point to find something I enjoyed doing to fill up the rest of the time. I’ve always had a love for watches – at one point I owned enough to wear a different one each day for two months – and people often asked whether I actually sold them. So I thought hey, why not turn this into a business?’ By October 2015, Urbnature was launched. ‘My first sale was to my manager for R500. I only had three watches to sell and within a week they were gone. At the time I was buying the watches already assembled and reselling. As time went by I began exploring laser engraving and cutting as I wanted to make the watches myself.’
Because her work schedule kept her so busy, she didn’t have time to go for formal training in jewellery making. Determined to turn her vision into a reality, Letlhogonolo turned to Google, where she found lots of information and tutorial videos. ‘Youtube has been my greatest teacher.’
Inspired by her love for nature, Letlhogonolo wanted the pieces to have a wooden look and feel, while also being eco-friendly. She uses locally sourced Supawood. ‘It offers a pristine quality blank canvas, which we can manipulate and alter as we like to create our designs. We buy the parts for the watches and assemble them, together with my husband, to customers’ specifications. Most of the other products we assemble ourselves, but when we have large orders we outsource as we have a seven working days turnaround time.’
The company has added a range of items to the brand, including wall clocks, sunglasses, wooden photo frames, and wedding accessories, all with the signature wooden features. Clients have the option of custom-made designs.
As Letlhogonolo’s husband is in marketing, he handles the advertising for their social media platforms. They also sell at markets and host pop-up sales. Even without an online store, they’ve managed to reach a wide audience. ‘Our clients have been our biggest marketers, as most of our orders have come from word of mouth. However, we’re definitely working on an online store.’
With the business being fairly new, profits are ploughed back in. ‘The money we’ve been making so far has helped us introduce a wider product range, and we managed to buy a laser cutting and engraving machine, without having to buy it on credit! We’d like to eventually locally source all the parts for the watches.’
With four children, a full-time job and a successful side hustle, Letlhogonolo has learned to master the art of balance and the importance of a solid support network.
Our clients A our biggest marketers, as most of our orders have come from word of mouth