People | 02 Mar 2020 | By Sun International

For the love of leather

Maphuki Tsatsane's leather goods business began as a hobby, but with Sun International's help, it's now a thriving enterprise with its sights on conquering Africa.

Maphuki Tsatsane's handcrafted leather belts, bags, and shoes are loved by tourists and locals alike for their fine craftsmanship and durability. This self-taught designer took a leap of faith and left full-time employment to run his business after signing up with Sun International as part of the organisation's Enterprise Development Programme in 2015, and hasn't looked back.

Maphuki's business began as a "side-hustle", but his fellow educators soon convinced him to turn his hobby into a formal business.

"I learned to make belts and other small leather goods as a hobby in 1997, while working as a teacher in Cape Town. My first clients were my colleagues at Bulumko Secondary School in Khayelitsha. They encouraged me to grow the market beyond the school's premises. As my market expanded, I supplied a shop at the V&A Waterfront," says Maphuki.

These days, Maphuki's clients come from all over the world. They buy his products at Maphuki Leather Design, his store in Sun Central, Sun City, and leading leather goods stores around the country.

Apart from the retail store, Maphuki also runs a leather furniture manufacturing business from a home-based factory in Phokeng, North West.

"We upholster furniture using leather, fabric and wood, which makes our work unique. Our biggest client is Sun City – we are grateful to Sun International for this opportunity," he says.

Between his two businesses, he employs 20 people. He credits his success to hard work, passion, patience, and a willingness to learn.

"I treat every product and everyone I deal with, with respect," explains the father of four.

He counts the mentorship he received from Sun International's Enterprise Development Programme as a major highlight of his entrepreneurial journey.

"My journey at Sun City began in 2013 when I exhibited my products at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on invitation by the Department of Trade and Industry. Collen Jonker, a retail manager at Sun International, fell in love with my work and offered me an opportunity to be part of the Enterprise Development Programme. At the time, I did not fully grasp what it entailed – it was only in 2015, when I was given funding to open my shop at what was then the Entertainment Centre that I did."

"I took the big risk of resigning from my job to give full attention to the business. The shop didn't do well in the beginning, but through consultation, perseverance and support, things started looking up in 2016. We were also offered the upholstery opportunity," he says.

Maphuki admits that running a business is challenging, but is proud of the lessons he has soaked up along the way. His long-term vision is to expand his retail business across Africa – and beyond.

Unique selling point: "We specialise in handcrafted genuine leather products, which are a rare find – they're very durable and fashionable."

Advice to entrepreneurs: "Be humble and professional, keep on knocking on various doors where you see opportunities and be willing to learn and ask for advice."

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