How Teaching Pre-School Children About Collecting Litter Turned Into A Thriving Upcycling Business

By Phesheya Mkhonta

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do as (ban-twa-na) Craft?

My name is Lungile Mbhamali, founder of (ban-twa-na) Craft which upcycles plastic waste products into personal accessories for daily use, such as pencil cases, coin purses, make-up bags, and backpacks amongst other things. Currently, we are introducing an African-printed collection of accessories.

What is the story behind (ban-twa-na) Craft? How did it all start?

The story started when I was helping to run a preschool. For activities on Fridays, we would walk around the school vicinity collecting littered waste, in an effort to teach the kids about taking care of the environment. We later had the school graduation coming up and we were worried about the tight budget we were working on and how we would manage to buy the gifts required for the graduation.

So we came up with the idea of making pencil cases from the waste collected, as gifts. The kids and parents loved them so much there were suggestions of ‘why not sell these?’.

I later heard about an arts and craft event that was coming up at Ngwenya Glass, but it was for Swaziland Fair Trade, (SWIFT), members only. I then got in touch with SWIFT, and showed them my work, and they were impressed. I soon became a member and officially started the business from there.

Since launching the business, what kind of response have you received, and what are some of your more popular product items?

The response has been great. Our continuous product development process has kept clients coming back. I believe that whether you focus on popular repeat buys or on creating new designs, you constantly have to push yourself to stay relevant in business.

Equally, in business, some risks are worth taking others not so much, and from that, you teach yourself to bounce back into the game and never give up. I believe that you are your own biggest competitor. Our popular products are coin purses, pencil cases, toiletry bags and of late, hats of different designs.

Where do you sell your products, and are the bulk of your orders local or sold internationally?

(ban-twa-na) Craft products are sold locally and have penetrated the international market as well. We attend mostly hand-craft market days, as well as attend larger recognized Festivals such as MTN Bushfire, Luju Festival, and the annual Swazi Rally, amongst others.

We are eternally grateful to all these platforms for allowing us to showcase and sell our products to our target market, which is a quirky, fun, and environmentally-conscious gang.

We have recently entered the international market. We are still exploring it at a fairly small scale, but the potential is huge judging from the feedback we’ve received. We are looking forward to exploring this opportunity and operating on a larger scale in the near future.

Have you always been intentional about being an eco-friendly entrepreneur?

Yes, I have definitely been intentional about being environmentally conscious. At times you get into a space where you question whether what you do is enough to help the world become a better place.

I studied Fashion Design and Technology, and entered the fashion industry by making garments for the eccentric, but after a while that was just not fulfilling enough for me. After that, I discovered my love for making products and accessorizing with a purpose.

The world has been given till 2040 to reduce carbon emissions by 1.5%, or else it will be hard living on Earth due to the damage. (ban-twa-na) Craft is intent on playing its part by tackling plastic pollution. That is our purpose.

You have received international recognition through features on media outlets such as CNN and Forbes Magazine, as well as being profiled on international blogs and sites, how did this come about, and what has this done for your business?

I am utterly humbled by the esteemed recognition internationally and locally. Some of the opportunities came from being found selling at the aforementioned festivals, whilst others were a result of social media and word of mouth.

These platforms have elevated the business to steadily grow to greater heights. This has allowed me to continue dreaming, and following that dream, I’ve always had, a dream which is so vivid now.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on your entrepreneurial journey?

Experience has taught me to grow a ‘thick skin’. What you believe in ultimately carves your future. You cannot allow other people to determine who you are and what your future holds. 

I’m also a firm believer that there is always a solution to a problem. Regardless of how long it takes, if you persevere, you will find a way through. This thinking also comes from my love for computer gaming. Gaming always works the mind in trying to figure out solutions.

What do you think needs to be done to empower women in the country to have more initiatives like yours?

Empowering women starts with the ‘know-how’. Empowering is intertwined with imparting knowledge. Trust me, anyone can be great. Success starts with gaining knowledge on how to do a particular thing, from there, tools are then provided to make that thing practical or tangible. I always say once you have ‘arrived’ at your particular destination, look back and impart the knowledge and ‘know-how’ you have learned along the way to the next generation.

Women are multi-taskers and God gave us that ability for a reason. It’s imperative that we embrace and lift each other up, with the understanding that we can do anything we put our minds to. But if we fail to do so there will always be that shortage or lack of upward mobility for women in society. It’s amazing what women are capable of doing once given the opportunity.

What are the future plans for the business?

Future plans for (ban-twa-na) Craft include establishing our own fully-fledged factory and bringing more women on board to make them future shareholders of the brand, whilst imparting knowledge to young people, on sustainable business and on caring about your environment.

As we conclude this absorbing conversation, is there anything else you’d like to add, specifically, words of wisdom or encouragement to someone trying to forge their own entrepreneurial journey?

As overstated as it might sound, I would just say, never give up, look up, and go forward, no matter the obstacles in your path. Trust your instincts. Learn and believe.

I would like to thank you for this opportunity, and may you continue to do it for other women too.

Thank you, and good luck on your future business endevours.

Contact Info:

(ban-twa-na) Craft Contact Info:

📞7825 4162 Email: @

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