Soweto jewellery bound for London
Triumph of a local designer
NQOBILE Nkosi raised start-up capital by selling cakes and soft drinks in the township - and now he exports jewellery designed and manufactured in Dube, Soweto.
Nkosi, 28, studied jewellery design at the Soweto Jewellery School in White City in 2004. But after graduating he did not have the necessary capital to initiate his long-life dream of manufacturing jewellery.
"I started by selling cakes, ice cream and soft drinks in the township and I saved the profit so that I could open my business," he said.
In 2007 Nkosi opened NQ Jewellery Design Services and later partnered with a UK-based businessman, Paul Spurgeon, to launch the jewellery brand Cornerstone.
In order to get off the ground Nkosi began by doing jewellery repairs and later manufacturing jewellery using gold, silver and platinum.
These metals come in granule form and the end result is a magnificent range of rings, bracelets and other jewellery items. All this is manufactured in the back room of a four-roomed house in Dube.
In 2009 he won the Jet Community Award and the SAB Kickstart Award in Gauteng.
"We have mines and minerals in the country but people who are supposed to use the materials and benefit from them are not using it because they do not have the skills," he said.
Nkosi supplies his jewellery to Vive Jewellery and also exports to London.
With Spurgeon Cornerstone became the first jewellery company to showcase its goods at the Springfare trade show in Birmingham.
At the moment there is a greater demand for his designs outside the country than locally but this does not trouble him
"When something is still new, you have to give it time," he said.
Instead of indulging in a jet-set lifestyle, Nkosi says he intends bringing more people into this trade to empower his community.
He is funding a project in partnership with the Self Help Association for Paraplegics, which will result in the opening of a workshop that will train abled and disabled people to manufacture jewellery at the Shap Centre in Mofolo, Soweto.
"We have a product. We know there is a demand for it in the market.
"What we need now is people who can produce the product," he said.
Nkosi has also received a business loan from the National Youth Employment Agency.
"I am still young," he said. "The easy way out is to close the doors for other people but that is the cowardly way - wanting to be alone and with people praising me.
"I asked myself why I should be the only one doing this when the minerals are dug up in this country."
Nkosi enjoys the mentorship of other businessmen in his field from overseas.
"If someone comes from overseas just to mentor me, what can stop me from taking people from the street and teaching them to make something of their lives working with the beautiful gems of South Africa?"