Demographer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
The BEADazzle brand was developed out of an initiative that originally started out as a hobby. Hleziwe was in college at the time, when a friend was making some beaded bracelets to help raise funds for post-election violence victims in Kenya. She quickly joined the friend’s cause by helping her make different beaded accessories. And that’s when the Eureka! moment happened: ‘I can make this bigger’. Starting with repairing jewelry for friends and family, Hleziwe soon became encouraged to design bespoke pieces. It was only a matter of time she established BEADazzle as a business, but realized how unsatisfying this was, because, for her, it was not all about making money.
Hleziwe’s goal is to empower young people with skills that can make them financially independent. It is against this background that she developed a passion to promote youth development and hence founded an initiative where young people can be trained in bead work so as to generate income. She is currently based in Nairobi but would love to expand and train young people where her heart is, Malawi, on how to design different fashion accessories. Hleziwe’s vision is to see, in a few years, young people flourishing under the BEADazzle brand in different parts of the world as part of a mentorship programme.
BEADazzle pieces transcend different generations with materials that date back to hundreds of years ago, but with a unique style that can be adorned futuristically. The beading industry has historically been a woman's work, even to this day the trade has been an important economic empowerment activity for women. There is nothing Hleziwe likes than working with beads (both natural and synthetic), because of the versatility with which they can be shaped, a representation of what BEADazzle stands for. Her pieces can be worn during weddings, at work (and, yes, at a funeral) and enjoyed by both young and old, irrespective of gender. Though most men shy away from the idea of wearing beaded pieces, BEADazzle features a collection of men’s accessories, for the unique men who dare!
Hleziwe’s inspiration comes from Africa as a whole, having interacted with cultures and crafts of Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa. The concept behind BEADazzle represents the essence of the great continent. Most of the designs touch on different colours and materials ranging from cowry shells, corals beads, brass, Ankara fabric and pearls.
BEADazzle, in essence, is a marriage of culture and couture. It is not only promoting a fashion sense, but also enhancing the cultural sense.
Hleziwe’s success is not limited to her creative eye for beads. She proudly has Bachelor of Arts from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (Kenya), and a Master of Arts in Population Studies from the Regional Institute of Population Studies, under the umbrella of the University of Ghana.
It is her long-term goal to develop the capacities of marginalized youth where they can practice and transfer various skills for development of African nations. She dreams of establishing an institution in Malawi that caters to the needs of children with special learning needs, as a catchment of talent in Malawi and beyond, particularly for those that get left out simply because the world does not understand how they operate.
Hleziwe is grounded in the belief that the youth are an influential group as far as national development is concerned, and hence the need to invest in them. It has been projected that by 2050, there will be a large population of adolescents and youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, hence the need to invest in their capacity, health and general wellbeing. A youthful population has implications on a Country’s development agenda as it puts increasing demands on provision of services such as health and education.
Parting shot: “Surround yourself with people that share in your dreams so that, if you ever stop believing in yourself, they can remind you of the bigger picture. And always remember to spend more time building on your long term goal each day, rather than investing all your time in the short term goals.”