By: Sizakele Nduli
Sandiswa Mntwini’s early years in Tsomi, a small town in the Eastern Cape, involved her grandmother crafting traditional mats (amakhuko) for a living. But this went beyond artistry, with her dabbling in designing because she had to adjust hand-me-down clothes due to her petite size. “Though I have been sewing for a long time, I formally started my business in 2020; however, life happened, and I stopped working on it,” Mntwini, 34, told Vutivi News.
“I had intended to start again at the beginning of 2023, but it was a little challenging because I enrolled for my post-graduate studies this year and would attend class twice a week. I found it difficult to juggle everything.” The founder of Asante Sana Designs said that her passion for making placemats, cotton coasters, bowls, and cotton rope bags blossomed when she came across a beautiful table set with these items on Pinterest. That is when she decided to delve into the craft by exploring tutorials on YouTube.
She explained that the process of crafting the cotton rope bags included purchasing neutral-colored rope online, dyeing it to the desired colour, letting it dry, and subsequently moving on to the sewing stage. “I have not found a lot of options that sell the rope that I like. Unfortunately, no one could give me a straight answer regarding the eco-friendliness of the rope,” she explained.
Apart from school, full-time employment in the finance industry, and mothering two beautiful girls, Mntwini’s biggest challenge was getting the right equipment for her business. “I started with a domestic machine, and it really struggled with the rope. I then had to raise funds for an Industrial machine. I didn’t want to buy a second hand because I’ve done it before and it backfired,” she explained.
Currently, Mntwini runs her business without employees, as she regards it as her side hustle. “I hope it grows to be the main hustle. I get to create employment and mass produce.” Her items are affordable, ranging from R180 for four coasters to R180 and R750 for a cotton bag. “Recently, I stumbled upon a lady who makes baskets and handbags on TikTok. She is an attorney, and she is also making it work. She really inspired me to keep pushing,” Sandiswa concluded.