Tembo on her jewellery business, Dudlu Ntombazana Creations

Eastern Cape businesswoman Nandipha Tembo on her journey as a self-taught entrepreneur and how she's trying to fight poverty in her community

Born and raised in a small township called Dimbaza in the rural Eastern Cape, Nandipha Tembo, affectionally known as Nandi, says she started doing beadwork as a hobby.

After learning and perfecting the craft, she taught her husband and they started making jewellery together after work and on weekends. Their friends and family showed interest in their jewellery and that’s when Tembo and her husband decided to turn what was a hobby into a viable business.

She registered Dudlu Ntombazana Creations in September 2016.

“Dudlu Ntombazana Creations is a small business creating dainty beautiful earrings and neckpieces,” she says. “Through the business, we also aim to revitalise Dimbaza township by empowering women, equipping them with skills and creating employment for them.”

As a Xhosa woman who grew up in the township, Tembo says she has always liked the phrase “dudlu ntombazana” and sometimes says it jokingly to her friends to compliment them.

She says the phrase is a way that black men show appreciation for and love to their sisters. Although she admits that the phrase is sometimes associated with negative behaviour such as harassment, Tembo explains that she chooses to interpret the phrase positively rather than negatively.

“I interpret it as our brothers appreciating and affirming us as women. It’s about us women loving and appreciating ourselves, especially from the kasi perspective. The whole project is about women,” she says.

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The business currently employs 11 full-time employees who have been trained by Tembo.

“It’s heartwarming to be able to create job opportunities for women and enable them to provide for their families. That’s the one reason I can’t let the business fail, it means so much to someone,” she says.

Regarding the differentiating factor of her jewellery, Tembo says: “I try to make the jewellery different and unique in the designs and material I use. The pieces are mostly done using leather and beads.”

Dudlu Ntombazana jewellery prices range from R225 to R400.

“The business is self-funded and now it’s sustaining itself. As soon as people place an order and pay, we take that money and plough it directly back into the business.”

Her range of neckpieces is called First Ladies because all the pieces are named after former First Ladies of countries on our continent. Tembo says it was important that the theme of the range talk to her passion for women empowerment, hence she decided to honour First Ladies because they tend to be in the shadows of their husbands.

She adds: “It was also important that I use their maiden names rather than their married names so that the theme is associated with them alone and not their spouses.”

The goal is to expand and find creative ways of creating employment and combating poverty.

“We’re aiming to expand and collaborate with other creatives to see how we can make a difference in other people’s lives,” Tembo ends.