South African product designer and managing craftsman, Vusani Ravele won the hearts of TV viewers following his appearance on Shark Tank South Africa. Vusani shares with us the impact securing investment has had on developing his business Native Decor, the challenges and rewards of growing a sustainable creative business, the importance of preparedness, having passion and believing in yourself.
1. Please introduce yourself, and tell us a bit about your background, where you are based, and what led you to a career in product design?
I grew up in South Africa in a small town called Tzaneen. In high school, I ran a tuck shop and had my first taste of entrepreneurial success on a small scale. At the same time, I was suppressing my artistic flair and just being a teenager. I went on to co-own a publishing business after studying Industrial Engineering at UJ. That business failed and left me a bit vulnerable but highly skilled at a few things. Following that, I worked as a sales rep and reached my peak as a sales manager within that company. It was on Valentine’s Day of 2015 that my girlfriend bought me a cordless drill that it all changed. I couldn’t stop drilling holes in things. Soon after that, I found myself building all sorts of things and eventually bought a CNC machine which was stationed in my living room. I was fascinated with this thing! With a website running and a few successful designs, I would work on my passion during my lunch hour (I lived 10 min from work), after work (much to my neighbour’s dismay), and on my weekends. The rest, as they say, is history.