Some of the most successful businesses are based on turning an existing skill or passion into the foundation of a creative and viable business. For Alethea Volanie, founder of Volani Creative Designs, that skill was the ability to handcraft leather into beautiful accessories.
LoA found out more about this ambitious and creative entrepreneur building a growing business in the world of hand-crafted accessories.
What does your company do?
At Volani Creative Designs, we manufacture accessories, specializing in wallets, laptop bags, handbags and also custom-crafted bags made from durable and quality materials.
"It took retrenchment to make me think of being an entrepreneur."
What inspired you to start your company?
My career in media started in 1999 when the company I eventually went on to work for over 10 years, was in need of a receptionist. I grew with the company and progressed from the switchboard to eventually working on several of their productions. After ten years, I felt the need to grow and left beautiful Cape Town to work on a daily drama, which I worked on since 2010. In 2015 the broadcaster decided that they were not going to renew the contract of the show I was working on. I was devastated because I have never in my entire life been unemployed, and this business was what I knew best. I struggled to find a job after being retrenched and the bit of money I had for survival was getting depleted. My situation then caused my car to nearly be repossessed, and how many of you know that the banks don't have much mercy for you if you cant keep up with your payments. One day after watching Steve Harvey's shows, he had a guest who had gone through similar motions, but her story was different to mine. She lost her husband after years of being a housewife. Also, not knowing what to do, she pushed herself to create work for herself. That inspired me to think what I could make with my hands that could also cause me to have an income. I had completely forgotten about the gift that I had before my passion for media emerged. I originally had worked for a company that made bags, and there I was taught this craftsmanship skill that I had forgotten I had. I went to the store to buy leather to see if I still had it in me to make bags. I took an old handbag and tried to make exactly the same bag myself. Next, I cut a pattern and also made a laptop bag and wallet. I then realized that what I needed to move forward was right in my hands. I realized that through this gift I could now make a difference and be part of a solution to create jobs for others too. It took retrenchment to make me think of being an entrepreneur. Even though it’s a slow growing business that is still in it’s teething stages, I am at peace that I can grow this baby into a successful business.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Using my service and buying my products is helping me to help others. It’s the only way I can assist the unemployed women who work for Volani Creative Designs and who are also trying to make ends meet, because work is hard for them to find elsewhere. The products we make are high quality and we try to keep them at a reasonable price too, so that more people can enjoy them.
"What gives me satisfaction about being an entrepreneur is being in the driver seat and deciding where or how far I want this to grow."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
As an entrepreneur, I have met the most incredible people who have been very influential along my journey. I have attended a summit for entrepreneurs and through this my thinking has changed from being a person sending out CVs and looking for employment, to being a woman looking for opportunities to make a difference and create jobs for others. I come from a community in Cape Town on the Cape Flats where all my friends have fallen pregnant when starting High School. We were not exposed to being entrepreneurs. The only life we knew was to find a job and stay in it.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
My future plans for the company are to sell the products we make to the international market too. I am also going to open a gym with my personal trainer, but that's the next goal and I am very excited about it.
"It might surprise most of us who are entrepreneurs at just how much creativity lies within us."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
What gives me satisfaction about being an entrepreneur is being in the driver seat and deciding where or how far I want this to grow. I think we become more creative and it might surprise most of us who are entrepreneurs at just how much creativity lies within us.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
JUST DO IT! We get doubtful because we can’t see the success of being an entrepreneur when we first get started, because being employed by someone else guarantees you a pay check and it is a comfort zone. Believe that you can succeed through hard work and perseverance and it’s possible to the first millionaire in your family. Your change can inspire others to do the same.
Contact or follow Volani Creative Designs
Why LoA loves it….
There is nothing as inspirational as seeing women entrepreneurs who break away from the expected career or life path and instead take the brave decision to start a business, and make a success of that decision. Alethea Volanie is a great example of a young woman who took the opportunity to restart her life path through entrepreneurship, by practically turning an existing skill into the basis of a successful business. She is a great example of how to pivot in life and business, and importantly, make it work. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa