Mholi Mthembu, second from right, next to his wife, Nqobile and their team, with one of their trendy coffee tables.
Mholi Mthembu, second from right, next to his wife, Nqobile and their team, with one of their trendy coffee tables.
Some of the furniture that Durban-based company Woodnovation designs.
Some of the furniture that Durban-based company Woodnovation designs.
DURBAN - A Durban-based husband and wife business team, Mholi and Nqobile Mthembu, believe the sky is the limit for their furniture design company, Woodnovation.

The company, which they started in October 2017, was recently a finalist in the National Furniture Design competition, organised by the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).

The competition is aimed at identifying and nurturing furniture design talent, raising the profile of furniture manufacturing in South Africa and increasing the industry’s competitiveness by encouraging new product design and differentiation. The company will also showcase its work at the upcoming Decorex.

The Mthembus said they had always been passionate about design.

“This is how we ended up in the architecture and interior design industry. While working in the industry, we started noticing an increased demand for customised furniture design services for our affluent clientele and that led us to gain an interest in furniture design and manufacturing,” Nqobile Mthembu said.

They entered a stylish, trendy sofa and coffee table in the competition, in line with the theme, which was related to making the best use of limited space in a house.

Nqobile said they were pleased they were finalists as this allowed their business to be showcased nationally. The Mthembus are operating their company from the KwaMashu-based Furntech Incubation Centre and currently employ seven people.

Some of the furniture that Durban-based company Woodnovation designs.


Nqobile said they had to overcome several obstacles, including access to machinery, as capital costs are quite high. “After extensive research we discovered SEDA’s incubation program in FurnTech, applied and were accepted.”

Nqobile said other challenges included financial resources for producing product, renting a showroom and supporting marketing activities in order to acquire new clients.

Mholi added that they hoped their recent national exposure and networking efforts linked to the competition would lead to more orders from customers.

This would enable them to invest in their company, grow it and create more employment opportunities.

Said Nqobile: “Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. We can’t live our lives held back by fear - nothing worth having ever came easy, otherwise everyone would have it.”

THE MERCURY