All4Women Entrepreneurs is a monthly feature where we put the spotlight on amazing female entrepreneurs starting businesses in South Africa. This month we spoke to Phathi Hlongwane (who started a thriving jewellery business) to find out how she did it.
- Entrepreneur: Phathi Hlongwane
- Company name: Inkaturah
- Industry: Jewellery design and manufacturing
- Employees: 3
- Year started: 2016
- Website: inkaturah.co.za
The need for financial stability in these tough economic times keeps many South Africans tied to jobs they don’t enjoy and forces them to forsake their dreams. Inkaturah founder Phathi Hlongwane made the tough choice to leave her job and has been successfully living her jewellery design dream for three years.
Phathi says the work that went into making her dreams a reality wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.
Where architecture and fashion meet
When Phathi started studying architecture at the University of Cape Town, she was captivated by the beauty and strength of structures that start out as intricate pencil drawings. During the course of her studies, Phathi became fascinated with fashion design. She found a natural meeting of the two types of design in jewellery design and production.
“While studying architecture, I learned laser cutting and how to cut my designs out of wood. My love for fashion inspired me to make backing boards and start designing jewellery – everything grew organically from that point. I started experimenting with different designs, different materials and different techniques. I found that the practical lessons I learned from architecture and my love for fashion and design merged perfectly.”
Choosing her side hustle over her ‘real’ job
A job in fashion sounded ideal for Phathi, but she didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk doing administrative tasks – even in the fashion industry.
“I worked in the design industry, but I didn’t design anything. My job was mostly administrative, and jewellery design making was a great creative outlet for me, “ she explains.
After trying to do both her job and follow her passion for making and selling jewellery, Phathi realised she had to choose one.
“In the beginning, I would sell my earrings next to other people’s stalls. Then I started attending weekend markets, but between making and selling jewellery and having a full-time job, I was struggling. I was taking time from jewellery making to focus more on my job. It was difficult because what I really wanted was to make my jewellery!“ says Phathi.
Making the final decision wasn’t as difficult for Phathi as you would imagine. Weighing the pros and the cons of each option, she explains that it was clear to her that she should choose her own business.
“I wasn’t working at my dream job, I wasn’t earning my dream salary and I couldn’t imagine doing this for years to come. I decided to take a chance on my own business and started working at Inkaturah full time,” she says.
Even though she is finally doing what she loves, Phathi says that running your own business isn’t easy.
“There are always challenges, but I’m doing what I love and I’m working with a great team that is dedicated to making this work. In five years’ time, I see Inkaturah growing, serving more customers and hiring more staff!”