Molemo Kgomo, founder of Ntobenhledolls. Image supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - A  Johannesburg mother’s struggle to find a doll  that can relate to her one year-old daughter  has turned into a lucrative business for Molemo Kgomo 46, and placed her on the world map.

Ten years ago Kgomo,  a mother of two daughters, started Ntobenhledolls, which can be translated to beautiful girls in Zulu that have put smiles on the faces of young girls from as far afield as the UK. Ntobenhledolls produces ethnic dolls with curly hair, dark skin  and bright traditional attire that reflect the rich heritage in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia .

“I wanted a doll that my daughter could identify with,” says Kgomo. The dolls are manufactured in China, while she designs the clothing and final packaging herself.

Molemo Kgomo, founder of Ntobenhledolls. Image supplied.

“I visited a few doll manufacturers in China and told them my plan and visions and that is how Ntombenhledolls was established.” Although Kgomo says it is not easy manufacturing overseas, she still regards it as the best option because it is cheaper.

“Funding is really not easy if one is manufacturing overseas. The machines are quite expensive and one needs to have huge orders to be able to get funding and manufacture locally and to keep the business sustainable.” 
Prior to starting Ntobenhledolls, Kgomo was flight attendant, which she describes as an eye opening experience. “Travelling was my life and it opened a new world for me,” she says. The Ntombenhledolls are most popular in South Africa, United Kingdom, Namibia and United States of America place orders for their children. 

“The support has been so overwhelming from the public, locally and internationally,” she says. “I am currently selling the dolls online and will be working on getting the brand into retail stores to make it easy for people who do not have internet access to be aware of my product.” Kgomo says she wants her daughters to have the same values that were instilled to her by her own mother.

“I am following my mother’s footsteps with the way she brought us up. She wanted us to embrace who and what we are and allow ourselves to explore without any limitations. I want my girls to be and do exactly that.” 

With a new project on the pipeline, Kgomo couldn’t hold back her excitement. “On this upcoming project of a new doll, I am going to work with someone and we have already started on the samples, this is so exhilarating and I can’t wait for the final product,” she said.

It was not always easy for Kgomo, she says that obstacles are inevitable in any business venture. In 2014 Ntombenhledolls hit rock bottom, when the sales dropped and the business was not making money. She then decided to venture into another business for three years alongside her partners as a steel merchant.

“I remember at some point I wanted to give up and give the entire stock to charity and move onto something else. She says she is glad that she did not.

“Looking back at my business journey, I would not trade Ntombenhledolls for anything. It means so much to me, my girls and my customers.”