Ingredients: 6500m of wire, over a million brightly-coloured beads. Add 10 beading and wiring craftsmen. Preparation time: Just on three weeks…
It’s hardly surprising that business is cooking at Reb African Art in Rondebosch, and that entrepreneur and owner, Richard Tityiwe, is all wired up… After just three years in the business, Richard has taken on his biggest order yet, gifts for international participants in the 2007 UCI B World Championships, the biggest and most prestigious cycling event to be held in Africa.
The event, which takes place from 26 June to 1 July, has attracted participants from over 70 countries. It served as a qualifier for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and incorporates track competitions at the Bellville Velodrome, Individual Time Trials in Wellington and a Road Race through Cape Town. The road race utilizes both the Cape Argus/Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour route as well as additional laps of the circuit.
Richard started his wiring and beading business soon after arriving in Cape Town, in 2004. Like many children growing up in Zimbabwe, he and his friends spent many hours twisting and crafting, wire and beads into home-made toys and ornaments. This ‘hands-on’ training was the foundation for his now flourishing business.
Overberg is a Intaka Tech water purification plant (WPP) en route to a destination in South Africa. Intaka Tech, manufacturer and marketer of WPPs and Gas Generation Systems (GGSs), is a sponsor of the UCI B World Cycle Championships. It is rapidly increasing its footprint throughout Africa. Integral to this is its goal to enhance the lives of the communities wherein it operates.
From really humble beginnings, Reb African Art is now involved in a world class event. He says, “I started on my own, selling my craft at the Silwood robots in Rondebosch and until 2006 I lived from ‘hand-to-mouth’ and yearned for an opportunity to go bigger.” In 2006, things suddenly turned around for Richard and he was allocated a council stand at the Silwood Centre as well as a promotional stand at Riverside Mall. The increased demand for his work meant that his ‘ubuntu beading’ came into its own. Richard explains, “We take on as much work as we can manage and then share the extra work amongst other beaders and crafters. This working together means we are assured of continued work and we don’t have to turn customers down.” Most of Reb’s work is done by Richard though with his attention to style and detail being his ‘trademark.’
It was around 2006 that Richard met Bob Ashman from Nebraska studios who he says has, ‘been his mentor and advisor’ for the past year. It was through Bob that he took on his first corporate order for LTU Airlines, an order for 300 key rings. For Richard this was a turning point, “I felt, for the first time that this could be a lucrative business, it started to be a sustainable business, not a hand-to-mouth survival strategy”. Since then Richard has undertaken work for Grand West, Cape Town City Ballet, Nebraska Studios, South African Shipping News, New Africa books, LTU Airways, Ummmph Marketing and Master Wires V&A. The order from the UCI B World Championship’s event director, Alec Lenferna, is by far the biggest.
Richard says expansion of his business is relatively slow but he is proud that it is funded by profits and he has not borrowed any capital for growth. His eyes light up as he enthusiastically describes his new venture, expanding into home decor. Although it is a concept at the moment, he is putting together ideas and a plan of action which looks just as likely to catch the eye of corporate’s as his other creative and eye-catching products . He wants to specialize in kitchenware, unusual lampshades and place mats and he has a few other ideas he is not quite ready to divulge them.
Alec Lenferna says, “Together with our sponsors, Intaka Tech, we decided the championship should reflect the creativity of Africa. The key rings Reb African Art have been commissioned to make, will be given to each participant and in a move away from tradition, we are presenting the podium winners with beaded flowers. Our national flower, the Protea will be presented to first place winners, lilies for second and daisies for third. We are also presenting our dignitaries with beaded bowls. This sits firmly within our objective of making this an African event, but to international standards. We want to show the world what we in Africa can do, and this is just another small touch point in that journey. If we can support small businesses in doing this, then so much the better… Just as the UCI B Championships gives cycling talent opportunities to develop and evolve, we hope that Richard’s involvement in the event will be another step up in his rapidly expanding beading business. We wish him all the best, his craftsmanship will be going back to 70 countries, not a bad export record for one month!”