It takes a lot of courage and hard work to start the same business for the third time in two different countries.
But, Godfrey Dambuleni is not one to shirk hard work – learning at an early age the meaning of independence.
Growing up in Zimbabwe, his parents were so poor the business owner was forced to make his own toys as a young boy.
“We collected recycling materials from scrapyards and would spend our time making wire cars and other toys,” says Dambuleni.
He developed a passion for this craft and also realised that he could earn money from it when he was older.
“I wasn’t really making money from it. I would make the art and then sell it to put food on the table, so my business wasn’t really growing,” he says.
However, it was his home country’s failing economy that set him on a path to start and run his business formally in a new country.
Arriving in South Africa, the then 32-year old did not have a job or money and had to use the skill he had learnt during his childhood to make a living. Here, he met up with three other men with the same skill and started teaching people how to make art using wire and tin collected from scrap yards. This was how the business Mixed Ideaz was started.
The four guys developed a production process so that the business would run smoother.
“We created a sample and then divided the sample into different parts and each worker was assigned with the task of making one part of the product,” says Dambuleni.
At the end of the process he would do quality control by checking the products.
“We also taught the workers how to prevent being cut by the tin and that they needed to wash the materials before using it,” he adds. As the business slowly started growing, Dabuleni was able to lease a shop in Cape Town. A friend then referred Dambuleni to the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) in 2007 to get assistance with marketing services. The CCDI assisted in photographing his work and placing it in a catalogue that could be marketed to potential clients.
But, tragedy struck in April 2008 when Dambuleni was incapacitated in a car accident.
“I lost everything. I could not pay the workers and my team was forced to look for other employment,” he says.
However, in early 2009 a woman from Spier Craft Market, known only as Su, contacted Dambuleni to start selling his products again.
“Her assistance really helped me. She even assisted me in landing contracts worth about R20 000 and I was then able to use the money to buy more materials,” says Dambuleni.
This is how he restarted his business.
Two years ago, he landed a R120 000 contract – his biggest to date. He landed the contract thanks to the CCDI’s assistance after the client spotted his work in the catalogue. The US client wanted 10 life-size giraffes and rhinos each and he and two other workers completed the products in about three months under heavy pressure. A dedicated business owner, Dambuleni invests all his money back into the business.
“Because I am a foreigner, I am unable to get finance. I am thinking of partnering with a South African business owner so that I can grow my business,” says Dambuleni. For now, he hopes that the summer months will bring with it lots of tourists who will buy his goods.