I introduce our first collaborator, Mbonisi Zikalala, from Mbonise Leather Craft. On a chilly winter’s morning in Joburg’s CBD, I had a chance to interview Mbonisi Zikalala, owner and master leather crafter of Mbonise Leather Craft, to chat about him, his company and most importantly his entrepreneurial journey. True to the meaning of his name in isiZulu, “to help”, this entrepreneur started his career arresting bad guys for Chubb security. After chucking his torch and baton years later the former security officer embraced his true calling as an artist, with leather as his canvas.
Once upon a time in KwaZulu Natal…
Mbonisi Zikalala was born in Bergville, KZN, and brought up in Dobsonville, here in Johannesburg. Currently residing only blocks away from Maboneng in Johannesburg CBD.
Fast forward to 2008
Most entrepreneurs’ crazy ideas originate from a need or problem that they wanted to solve. In Mbonisi’s case, a leather belt. After finding PBloch and Co in the Yellow Pages, Mbonisi paid them a visit and immediately commenced riffling through their off-cuts bin. “It was the happiest day of my life!” said Mbonisi, and shortly after his first belt was born.
At this point, he was posted as a guard at the Formula 1 hotel on Louis Botha Avenue. The hotel staff had such admiration for his belt, that he managed to sell another 9 over the coming months, one of the customers being the hotel manager, who then bragged with his belt at a manager’s football club event. Word of mouth leads to him using all his free time making batches of 20 belts at a time. He was taking them everywhere he went, selling them to people in taxis and on the streets. Mbonisi’s was making good money with his side hustle, continuing on for another two years as a security guard and one-man belt factory at home.
Up up and away…2010 to 2013
Late 2010 Mbonisi had enough momentum and guts to say goodbye to the 9 to 5 security gig and open his first shop, or stand at least. This was at the Market Theatre in New Town which had a flea market for small artisans. This is where belts only, turned into bespoke products such as his first leather bag, made to order for an artist at the Theatre. Soon he made a variety of any and all leather products, mostly dictated by a customers’ specifications or imaginations. Enabling Mbonisi to practice and vastly grow his craft. His products today include sandals, shoes, handbags, backpacks and laptops bags.
Contact Mbonisi on Instagram or Facebook under the following, or the luckiest fish for his mobile number.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mboniseleathercraft.mbonisi
Instagram – (mboniseleathercraft) https://www.instagram.com/mboniseleathercraft/?hl=en
Bergville is equidistant from Johannesburg and Durban
Mbonisi – “to Help”
Mbonise – “to Show Them”
Music: Smooth Criminal, Alien Ant Farm
Podcast: Joe Rogan Experience – Episode #1169 Elon Musk, http://podcasts.joerogan.net/podcasts/elon-musk