Sister duo shines bright with world’s first all women-owned diamond cutting company
In what is typically a man’s world, sisters Mosibudi Mathole and Khomotso Ramodipa have broken the mould with Kwame Diamonds, the world’s first all women-owned diamond cutting company.
Founded in 2008, the duo has bravely defied all societal norms, cutting their teeth in the world of diamonds.
“My father always encouraged us to venture into industries that were not so accessible to black people at the time, as he believed we were capable and would do well,” Mathole says.
The sisters left their previous careers to embark on the business venture together. “We both had very successful careers, Motso is an established optometrist and owned a few practices and I was a stockbroker and did well in the stock markets,” Mathole says.
“I tried my hand in the restaurant business that fell flat on its face because of a bad partnership, but that subsequently became the main motivation for my sister and I to become business partners.”
Despite going into a lucrative industry, the sisters soon realised that “not all that sparkles is a real diamond”.
“Curiosity and the love of money is what led me into this industry. I thought I would be rich; after all, that is how diamonds are perceived in the movies and in general. Surprise…they are a business like any other,” says Mathole.
Some of the challenges they faced included how the industry is mostly family owned businesses that are passed down from generation to generation, as well as still being heavily male-dominated.
“Demand for diamonds and jewellery is mainly driven by women yet we are not participating in the key value chain, and it’s still very white. It needed some different demographics to change the narrative that it is only for the rich. It’s always exciting to be the force of change.”
One of the biggest changes for the company has been its collaboration with American Swiss Jewellers (ASJ).
“Being able to sell our diamonds to ASJ has been a major boost for our business. They’ve got 400 to 450 outlets that we wouldn’t have had access to but because of our association, we have access to such outlets. Their marketing reach is something we don’t have the budget for, so to be able to leverage on marketing like them is a huge deal for us – it has really lifted our brand,” says Ramodipa.
Kwame Diamonds also hopes to improve the lives of the community and those who would not typically have had the chance to enter into the world of diamonds. “All our staff members come from challenged backgrounds and it is our mission to see their lives and that of their families turned around for the better,” Mathole says.
“A lot of our people in this industry are limited to just being diamond polishers and not involved in the planning process of the rough diamonds,” Ramodipa says. “We want to see them taking part in all the levels of manufacturing.”
Despite challenges, the sisters are hopeful for the future.
“One of the pros of being in a diamond business is being part of a very exclusive community that has an opportunity of turning rough odd-shaped pieces of minerals into sparkly pieces that bring so much joy in people’s lives.
“Being one of the few women in the manufacturing space can only mean that we have a lot of growing to still do and opening the industry to more women,” says Ramodipa.