EU-ITC Artisanal Incubator Program unlocks Eswatini’s immense creative industry potential

Eleven Swati entrepreneurs running brands and businesses in the handicraft, artisan and food sectors are currently gaining valuable knowledge and skills through business knowledge building.

Seizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for personal and professional growth through the European Union (EU) – International Trade Centre (ITC) Incubator Programme, which seeks to build and develop Eswatini’s creative industry and propel it towards a prosperous future; ten local brands are learning from experienced industry professionals across the handcraft, artisan and food industries.

The founders and brands are Nontsikelelo Msibi of Shunem Candles, Thandiswa Maphanga of Benanial, Sonkhe Sukati of Beads Emporium, Bafanabethu Gina of Favourite, Phila Nkambule of Indigenous Africans, Nomvuyo Dlamini and Mpho Matsebula of Spice Sisters, Siphiwayinkosi Shongwe of Babalo Foods, Sandile Mavuso of Sibongile Beverages, Lungelo Dlamini of Patience Delight and Bongeka Mavuso of Miss Biltong.

Proudly supported by the EU, Alliances for Action and ITC, the ongoing one-year programme recognizes and champions Eswatini’s creative industry with the view that it holds the key to unlocking sustainable economic growth.

Aptly tagged ‘Future Icons’, the programme is designed to support, capacitate and grow these brands with a premise that, if nurtured, the creative industries can boost competitiveness, productivity, sustainable growth, employment and export potential.

Hosted by House on Fire, the business training workshop and networking event includes business training, coaching, networking and trade opportunities.

Philippa Thorne thanked their visionary partners, the EU, ITC and Alliances for Action, for this innovative enterprise initiative, noting that the programme is a great avenue for the country’s ambitious talent to come together in order to cultivate a new generation of socially driven young creatives and entrepreneurs.

The first session held at House on Fire began on Friday, September 8 with a full day of training on creating a business plan facilitated by Tiwi Gondwe of Sibantu.

Addressing the entrepreneurs during the first session, Gondwe said, “The customer is the most important part of your business; without your customer, you don’t have a business. Don’t take feedback personally, get curious and ask them: What they didn’t like? What you could change? Feedback is an important element of customer research.” 

The session was attended by the entrepreneurs of the ten brands, five in artisanal food and five in handicraft and design, covering marketing, selling, business money management and business plans. It was a truly engaging first session which culminated with a few of the brands presenting their elevator pitches.

The training was followed by a refreshing networking event held at Malandela’s Lifestyle hosted by Dala Spaces dubbed “Network & Chill” which enabled the business leaders to connect and network as well as display a few of their products and brand names. 

The next training will cover brand identity with a specific focus on creating an identity that speaks to the entrepreneurs’ brand values, and how to be consistent with telling their brand promise and story through their products and social media platforms.

Before this first session, the brands recently participated in the Luju Fashion Café as part of their one-year programme which gave them an opportunity to trade in the marketplace. This saw the brands making great business contacts from gaining potential sales agents to new retail stores.

The Luju Fashion Cafe platform has further created an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to have face-to-face engagement with the festivalgoers helping them gain some great customer feedback as well as build their brand name and credibility.

EU Programme Officer Luis Miguel Pascoal said they are pleased to support the Artisanal Incubator program to create further opportunities for the youth enterprises to live up to their full potential and participate actively in the economy.

Young people make up 70% of the Eswatini people and, as such, development cannot be achieved without them. That is why the focus of the EU cooperation with Eswatini in the next few years will focus on Human Development and Social Inclusion, developing Skills for Employability and Entrepreneurship. The EU also launched a 15-member Youth Advisory Board (YAB) which plays an advisory role to help make EU action in Eswatini more participatory, relevant and effective for the country’s youth. This is because we strongly believe that young people deserve all possible opportunities to reach their full potential and to thrive in the green and digital transitions,” he said. 

Here’s a look at the brands to look out for in the future that are participating in the programme.

Shunem Candle worksHome fragrances and candle art handcrafted using a variety of different including natural waxes, soya and bees wax.
BenanialStrength and beauty come to mind when thinking about handmade jewellery by style icon Benanile, with a focus on individuality and sustainability.
Beads EmporiumLuxury beaded handbags that sparkle, the prom season’s favourite accessory. 
FavouriteIconic furniture and design inspired by Swati culture – invest in design and heritage, and the first to invest in these future collectables.
Indigenous AfricanaAfrican fabric and soulful Swati stories inspire these streetwear bags and accessories.
Spice SistersThe two sisters, Vuvu and Mumu specialise in spicy sauces and condiments with unique flavours and all-natural ingredients.
Babalo foodsPreserved and dehydrated local fruits and nuts that promote health and sustainability.  
Sibongile BeveragesKombucha and ice teas are the future in healthy and delicious drinks. They will soon be available from select garages around eSwatini.
Patience DelightFirst became successful with their Cookie Jar biscuits range and now have expanded into sauces and jams. 
Miss BiltongYoung female entrepreneurs who are disrupting the biltong snack market.
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