Musibudi “Jo”Mathole | Kwame Diamonds
My career began in stock broking and investment banking but I have always been fascinated by diamonds and the diamond industry which, traditionally, has been dominated by men. I believed that women could play a part in turning around some of the more negative perceptions of the industry by starting a legitimate business that was properly run and licenced.
I went on a diamond sorting and valuation course and received my licence in 2006. I also travelled through Africa to learn more about the industry, and teamed up with an Indian company to help them set up a South African-based diamond cutting works. My partner, Khomotso, and I started Kwame Diamonds in 2010.
The main barrier in the beginning was finance. When I approached a financial institution for help in starting a factory, they laughed at me. Also, this is quite a close-knit industry so you need someone to vouch for you, and to develop contacts and alliances.
Initially, when I started engaging with De Beers, all I wanted was for them to supply us with diamonds. It turned out that they were interested in helping to grow and transform the local diamond sector, and that’s how we landed up on their enterprise development programme.
My partner and I have learned so much! Things that we always took for granted and things that we weren’t even aware of are now very key. I have got to know myself better because my personal development guide is constantly probing and encouraging me. There’s never a wrong answer to a question which means you can share your thoughts openly and there won’t be any judgement. The guiding style is beautiful because it’s interactive and you know that confidences will be respected. I feel much stronger, more confident and I’m no longer intimidated.
Finances are still a bit of a struggle but it’s been very useful having help to plan out our end goal and to now know where we are going. We’ve also learned a great deal about marketing and sales which has allowed us to position our company in new way. It has become much easier to put the necessary building blocks into place. My head is in the right space and I now have the grounding to take this business to the next level. We have some very lucrative contracts in the pipeline with blue-chip companies. These will change our lives and those of the people we try to empower.
If I could offer any aspiring entrepreneur advice, it would be: Come to Raizcorp! The lessons you learn apply to you not only as a business person but as a human being. You will be reborn as you start seeing things in completely different light. I’d also tell them not to be shy in chasing their dreams because of what other people might have to say.
I am eternally grateful to De Beers. It’s not always easy to find someone who has faith in you so their confidence in us and the resources they have devoted to us are deeply appreciated. I hope we can be the business they want us to be and lead the way for those who follow. Their support is helping us to create a future that is very bright!