At first glance Ethel comes across as a very serious person, but don’t be fooled by this façade. As soon as you get to know her you’ll quickly find out that she is full of jokes and laughs. With an infectious smile, she injects huge doses of humour into the work environment. Passionate about reaching new goals and achievements she has risen to senior craftsmanship in no time. She executes her duties efficiently and with grace, and of course with laughter trailing just behind her. On track to becoming one of our master craftswomen, Ethel produces products as neat as a pin. Branded with her initials EJ, you’ll know that your product is of exceptional quality.
Nonzuzo was born and raised in the Eastern Cape. She is known for taking her responsibilities as a team leader very seriously. As our second floor supervisor, Nonzuzo leads by example and keeps a keen eye on her team. No wonder she manages to seamlessly keep everyone in check. Even though all our crafters are cross trained in every skill, Nonzuzo’s heart lies with stitching, an art form which she has perfected with a smile on her face. If you come across one of our products branded with NY, you can rest assured you won’t find a stitch out of line. We strive to create an environment where work feels like home and here at Els & Co. it doesn’t matter if it’s your first day or you’ve been here for years, you are part of the team. In her own words: “We are like a family here; we laugh a lot together”. We couldn’t be happier to have Nonzuzo as one of the leading ladies and senior craftswomen here at Els & Co.
Growing up in a household of 5 children in the rural Eastern Cape, Phumza relocated to the heart of Stellenbosch to find work and we couldn’t be happier. As the first craftswoman to join the Els & Co. family, Phumza is seen as the mother figure of the team and she is proud of her achievements. As a senior craftswoman and team leader, she warmly offers guidance and support to the rest of the team and takes new comers under her wing. With a love for team work and a natural knack for leadership, there’s no wonder why she manages to lead her team to success. With a booming laugh that echoes throughout the hallways, there is never a dull moment with her.
Patiswa recently moved to Stellenbosch from the Transkei, and we are happy that she found a place here with the Els & Co. family. In the short time that she has been with us she has mastered the skills of an exceptional craftswoman and risen to the rank of senior craftswoman. Despite our extremely high standards and work load, her inspirational attitude and great sense of humour makes it an inviting place to work. Patiswa never flinches in stressful situations, she just pulls up her sleeves and gets straight to work. As one of our best crafters, we are proud to announce that Patiswa is on her way to becoming a master craftswoman. Quick as a whip with comebacks, paired with a mischievous smile there is never a dull moment in the workshop.
Anathi, who has relocated to Stellenbosch from the Eastern Cape, has been part of the Els & Co. family from the start and is now a senior craftswoman. Anathi’s positive attitude makes the workshop an inviting place to work, with an infectious good-natured temperament, she is an inspiration to everyone in the workshop. She maintains high standards and it shows in her high quality of work. With products of the highest quality, Anathi has heavily contributed and still continues to contribute to our outstanding image nationally and globally. Always eager to learn new skills and gain new experience we are proud to have Anathi as part of our tightly knit family. Proudly branded with 'AF' you can rest assured that your product is of exceptional quality.
Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, Lumka lives in Stellenbosch with her three boys. Mothering three sons is no doubt a demanding job which would tire anyone out. But not Lumka; she is packed with energy and seamlessly manages to churn large amounts of high quality products in a day. Currently one of our senior craftswomen she is on her way to becoming a master craftswoman as Lumka accomplishes an amazing amount of work in her day. Meticulous in her work, she will work above and beyond what is asked of her because she is proud of her finished product. Branded with LV, you’ll know your product is the cream of the crop.
Asive was born and raised in the Eastern Cape and she has happily relocated to Stellenbosch. She might be quiet as a mouse but she consistently produces products of high quality as one of our senior craftswomen. Serious about her work, she is very conscientious of the importance of the accuracy in her work and therefore her products are flawless. Asive exemplifies going above and beyond what is required. Satisfied with her high standards of work she proudly stamps her products with ‘AM’. We envision a promising future for Asive here at Els & Co.
She brings a ‘can-do’ creative, positive and friendly attitude to work every day, without fail, and everyone in the workshop can not help but be swept along. Fun to work with she brings a smile for everyone to enjoy. Even under the most demanding of work conditions, Azipheli maintains an incredible, positive attitude, which inspires others to more effectively deal with extraordinary circumstances. Highly reliable, Azipheli crafts products of the highest quality which has made her one of our senior craftswomen. She exudes a tremendous level of pride in her work and proudly brands her products with the letters ‘AJ’. If you receive any of her products, you can rest assured that you have struck gold with your purchase.
At Els & Co. we strive to make anyone and everyone feel at home. Even though Thoko has only been with us for a short period of time, she fits into our team like a glove and has reached senior craftsmanship already. Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, Thokozile Mantangatanga is armed with a golden voice that can hit any note. Chances are you'll walk into our studio and hear the craftswomen singing. Not only can she hit a note like none other that keeps the rest of us singing and humming all day long, she also churns out high quality products during crunch-time.
The 21 year old Busiswe is one of the youngest Els & Co. team members, but age is but a number and Busi produces exceptional products time after time. Her favourite product to craft is the Hogsback Leather Belt. She relocated to Stellenbosch from the Eastern Cape and has been working at Els & Co. since June 2019 when she came to work alongside her older sister, Nolutho, at the company. She has an extremely shy nature at first but don’t let that fool you, given some time she loves laughing and chatting away with her other team members. She loves working at Els & Co. because not only has she found friends in the other craftswomen, but also an extended family. Even though Busi has only been with us for a short while, she continues to impress us with her quick learning abilities. Branded with her initials BG, you’ll know that your product is of exceptional quality.
Nolukhanyo Gwabeni, who goes by Nolutho in the studio is one of our kindest souls and often our right hand at times when things get tough. Nolutho takes great pride in her work and can be easily spotted in the studio by her ever-smiling face and laughter that gets the entire studio in a cheerful mood. You can be assured that if the initials 'NG' are on your products... It has had the pleasure of being worked on with a great deal of love, pride and authenticity!
Lebo’s full name is Moleboheng and it means “to be thankful” in Sotho. The jovial 22 year old Lebo relocated from the town of Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape. She is the only craftswomen from Sotho origin in the team. When she first started working at Els & Co. she was doing general cleaning and cooking in the kitchen, but soon developed an interest in joining the other ladies in crafting leather products. She is still in training to craft some of the more advanced products, but she thoroughly enjoys crafting the Middelburg Belts, leather and canvas, and the Rhodes Cartridge Wallet. Lebo says she loves working at Els & Co. because the other ladies constantly make her laugh and it has put her in the position to comfortably provide for her 4 year old daughter. Branded with her initials LL, you’ll know that your product has been made by Lebo with a spring in her step.
The caring Phathiswa was born and raised in the town of Idutywa in the Eastern Cape. She relocated to Stellenbosch 12 years ago in order to find a job and to be able to send money back home to her parents, 14 year old daughter and 6 year old son. She has joined the Els & Co. team in 2018 and has since been very happy here. When asked about her favourite part of working here, she said it is the love, support and advice that flows freely between the team of craftswomen. She is also extremely proud of the products that she crafts as she learns a new skill as well as sharpens her existing skills each and every day. Stamped with her initials PR, you can rest assured knowing your product has been made with exceptional care and thankfulness in your support of her craft.
Growing up in Ngqeleni in the Eastern Cape, the 29 year old Vuyo relocated to Stellenbosch to further her studies and find work. She joined the Els & Co. team in 2018 and we couldn’t be happier. The name Vuyolwethu literally means ‘our joy’ in Xhosa. Since working here Vuyo’s life has also changed for the better as she can now comfortably support her family and 3 children. Vuyo comes across as a very serious character but after a while it becomes apparent that she is simply very focused on her tasks at hand and that she does indeed crack a smile at a joke from time to time - she even mentioned that her favourite part of being part of Els & Co. is the infectious banter between the craftswomen. Proudly branded with her initials 'VM' you can rest assured that your product has been made with meticulous attention to detail.
Hailing from the town of Idutywa in the Eastern Cape, 24 year old Zezethu relocated to Stellenbosch in 2013. She lives with her three year old daughter and being a young, single mother is no easy task. However, it does not get Zezethu down, in fact she is rarely seen without a smile on her face. She is has a passion for fashion and thus her favourite part of the crafting process is stitching. At Els & Co. we strive to make everyone feel like family and often the craftswomen, quite literally, are family. Zezethu’s older sister, Anathi, is one of our senior craftswomen and has been with Els and Co. from the very start. Anathi introduced Zezethu to us in February 2018. Since then Zeze has been a part of the family and is loving every moment! Her favourite part of being a part of Els & Co. is the lively banter between the craftswomen in the workroom. Her initials ‘ZF’ goes onto every product she makes - if you see it you can rest assured that it was produced with utmost diligence and attention to detail.
The 28 year old Zikhona has only recently joined the Els & Co. team. She hails from the town of Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape and relocated to Stellenbosch in search of work. Before joining Els & Co. the quiet and demure Zikhona worked in the scullery of a local restaurant. Now she is visibly beaming as she explains how she can comfortably support her family and two children who still reside in the Eastern Cape financially. She is also extremely grateful for the extra week of paid leave the craftswomen get during December as she can go home to visit her loved ones. Although she is still in training, she already has a favourite task in the crafting process - dyeing the leather. Each product Zikhona makes is proudly stamped with her initials ‘ZM’ and you can rest assured that your product has been made with love and gratitude in her heart.
Asekho is not only one of the newest additions to the Els & Co. family but also the youngest. The 21 year old Asekho relocated from the town of Idutywa in the Eastern Cape to Stellenbosch early in 2019 in search of work. She has a 4 year old daughter that she has to provide for and she is thus extremely determined to make a success of her career at Els & Co. Even though she has only been here a few months, she has already built up the skills to craft smaller products like our Leather Coasters and Johannesburg Luggage Tags. Her favourite part of the crafting process is stitching. As she lives alone here in Stellenbosch, what she loves most about being a part of Els & Co. is the sense of family and camaraderie amongst everyone as well as all of the jokes and laughs the craftswomen share in the workroom. Branded with her initials, ‘AS’ you can rest assured that your product has been made with a smile on her face and gratitude in her heart.
For many years I contemplated a radical career change from photography and design to crafting something out of leather with my own hands. Something so well made that merely holding it and smelling the ample beeswax in its polish would enrich the soul. Something that would last a lifetime. In 2014 I finally took the plunge and founded Els & Co. Fine Leather Craftsmen.
As South Africans we live in a country with many social problems, and we easily overlook the amazing potential of our diverse and beautiful people. Some years ago a wonderful woman helped me realise this and it became the backbone of Els & Co. So instead of searching for skilled leather craftsmen with experience, it became our mission to source craftsmen from the millions of people in our country for whom there are very few opportunities to escape the poverty cycle they are trapped in. At Els & Co. we are proud of the fact that each individual was trained in-house and has gained a very valuable skill.
Today Els & Co. is made up of a formidable team of talented craftswomen who love what they do and give a little of themselves in every product they craft. A team I am extremely proud of and am honoured to be part of.