You are most likely to find 28 year old Phumlani Mkhize surrounded by well adorned ladies.
Though he is not a ladies’ man, this young man’s priority is to please the fairer sex. This former student of the Durban University of Technology is a fast progressing jeweler with an impeccably manufactured collection of earrings, pendants, brooches, rings and bracelets sold at his table positioned at the back entrance to the ML Sultan Campus since early 2011.
He describes his products as “unique, innovative, appealing and affordable.” Some of the products sport various recycled material which include SIM cards, keys, buttons, etc.
Contrary to popular belief, Mkhize has never set foot in a Jewellery Design school. “I actually studied Fine Arts at DUT,” he laughed. “This was back in 2009 until 2010,” he said. He put his studies on hold to grow Abanqobi Art and Craft, the name to which his business is registered.
So what led Mkhize to jewellery making? It all started with an unpleasant decision he made back in 2008, he said. Fed up with trying to live up to his parents’ expectations, Mkhize finally summoned the courage to drop out during his second year in Electrical Engineering; a course his parents had “coerced” him to study.
“That decision caused such a rift among my family. From that moment my parents simply told me I was on my own; no dependent of theirs was going to defy their wishes and still get their support,” Mkhize told.
So he made the means to enroll for his course in 2009 and lived at one of the residents.
An odd stroll at the beach one day unveiled information that would completely alter Mkhize’s future. “I saw the shells and suddenly had a brain wave. I thought ‘what if I could make jewellery out of these?’ So I implemented my idea, selling my jewellery first to the female students at Res then later at City Campus. I’ve never looked back since,” he said.
The young man marvels at his accomplishments. “My business is growing very fast. I make jewellery everyday because the demand is so high,” Mkhize said. He caters for African females between 16 and 25 years as according to research, women in this age group love fashion and shopping. Very high on demand lately are bright-coloured button earrings.
But pleasing women isn’t always easy, the jeweler sighed. “Sometimes I deal with cocky women who undermine my abilities and my products.” Ignore the hostile customers and focus rather on the supportive ones: that’s Mkhize’s motto.
As a marketing strategy he hosts “Reverse Price Day” on Fridays, where all products are sold at half price. Word-of-mouth has been very effective in increasing his clientele as well.
In the near future Mkhize plans to complete his diploma in Fine Arts and expand his business by finding a place around the CBD (Central Business District) in which to operate.
To view Mkhize’s designs visit his website on ww.abanqobiartandcraft.co.za.
– Naledi Hlefane
First year Sports Management students Noluthando Mdabe (left) and Sonto Ngcobo (right) accessorise with Phumlani Mkhize’s (centre) jewellery.