A South African shopping site where artisans and community meet

A South African online marketplace specialising in South African-made products, we provide everything a South African shopper could want – from designer jewellery to trinkets for streetlamps

A South African shopping site where artisans and community meet

When South African artist Sindi Ndebele was in the UK in the summer of 2016, she and her friend wondered what it would be like to do a business together selling South African antiques and collectables.

With a printing press and printers all the way back home, the duo decided to bring their designs to the UK. They spent the next nine months creating designs and working with product designers in South Africa to develop a portfolio of products that would appeal to an international market.

At the end of 2017, the friend and her husband created a South African content store – which sells handmade antiques, jewellery and small home decor items – and opened the business, Welcome Home.

It was a world away from what Ndebele expected. “As a jewellery designer I got involved in the product development, which I thought would be a little daunting at first, but it turned out to be a lot of fun,” she says.

Since being established, the business has been described as Britain’s first independent online boutique selling locally made South African products, opening doors to new markets and further recognising South African artisans.

There are a number of Australian-owned online boutique services featuring Australian and South African produce, most notably Etsy and StyleBloc.co.uk, however these markets do not sell anything from South Africa, making a connection between Australian visitors and their South African counterparts that is a lot harder to make.

Welcome Home does however offer an international audience by working in partnership with businesses in South Africa to create a collage of South African made goods. They work with artisans to find products such as art prints, metal jewellery, Pandora watches, perfumes and even trinkets for streetlamps. With handmade products, say the founders, there is a serious price range, which is important as the website is seen by niche shoppers who are keen to spend well.

“We go above and beyond,” says Ndebele. “We do different products every single day and there are many things that they can’t do in South Africa.”

Jomadek Siwunza, who sells jewellery, sisal bags and tags from her home town of Durban, believes the message of Welcome Home is also important. “They use our real names,” she says. “We work directly with artists and produce our own designs.”

She understands the power of social media in helping newcomers penetrate South African markets, but she urges holidaymakers and UK citizens keen to buy an entirely handmade product not to put all their eggs in the online basket. “Maybe if the email goes viral we can get some orders,” she says.

If nimble entrepreneurs do get into a particular niche, like something limited-edition, these small outlets do little harm. However, I can imagine that once such an entire online market matures – to the point where it can support entrepreneurs with real ownership and control – the supply of new goods will suffer.

Our market at Welcome Home works closely with Artisans South Africa, one of the only local sources of handmade South African products and an important source of support for an emerging and expanding economy. Artyhoroma chief executive Palese Carlin is responsible for getting British retailers through the door of artisans in South Africa.

“We work alongside Welcome Home to match products with buyers, helping customers discover what South African makers are doing and enabling them to make a genuine choice,” she says.

When it comes to clothing – something particularly susceptible to a major shift in supply chains – she understands that a business run from South Africa needs to sell directly to make it profitable. For her, it’s all about being agile and working with designers.

When it comes to accessories, says Carlin, non-traditional South African accessories that are relevant to our time have made their way onto the Welcome Home website. Fafadhisha Williams, from Pietermaritzburg, sells handmade gifts using a few cuts and the double-sided printing of traditional Durban fabric.

“People expect that we do market-driven design,” she says. “I tend to design more modern home wares or stationery. Our bestsellers are Jomadek’s scarves, particularly ones which are slightly more minimalistic.”

Other leather goods and paper objects are big sellers, and she appreciates that visitors are eager to get

Leave a Comment