Growing up in a disadvantaged family in Saaiplaais in Virginia, Welkom, the CEO and founder of Lichaba Creations spent his childhood helping his mother sell fruit and vegetables to support their struggling family.
“My parents couldn’t afford to send us to school as transport was very expensive,” says Lichaba. One day his mother told him and his brother that she’d found them a free school which also provided free lunch and transport. “She hadn’t realised that it was a school for children with special needs,” he recalls “Unfortunately the school I was attending only went up until Grade 10 and that’s when I left.”
He eventually studied jewellery-making at Harmony Jewellery School through a programme sponsored by Harmony Gold Mine and became one of its best students, spending three years there before being appointed to join Royal Manufacturing in the Free State.
“There were only two of us chosen to join the company. I worked there until it closed down and we were retrenched.”
Armed with this experience and a qualification in jewellery, Lichaba started his own beadwork business, with dreams of developing it into a big enterprise. He invested his last R500 into the venture. “I had to use whatever I had at that time, as I couldn’t afford machines to makejewellery. However, before long, people started buying my products to wear to weddings and other occasions,” he says.
In 20016, after almost four years in operation, Lichaba received funding from SAB Kickstart. He then focused on starting Lichaba Creations, which specialises in precious metals exchange, including silver, gold, palladium, platinum and diamonds.
“After getting the SAB Kickstart deal, we partnered with the Free State Department of Tourism. Whenever they had exhibitions overseas, they’d take our products to display there. Eventually, after people started asking questions about our brand, the department began taking us along to those exhibitions,” he recalls. In this way, he visited France and the USA, which helped his company market itself internationally. It’s since been exporting its products to more than seven countries.