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Customer stories

Stitching together a stronger community - NtoZinhle Lifestyle

Stitching together a stronger community

Known fondly as 'Lele', Sphelele Nozipho Chikowi, was born and raised in Soweto. Despite never being employed or having a CV in her name, Lele knew she was gifted with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Proudly South African, Lele has always been inspired by African culture, from its intricate and beautiful designs and bold colours to finely crafted beadwork accessories that embody African heritage. So much so, that she turned this passion into a small side business.

An unexpected challenge

For Lele, it was always working with her hands that drove her creativity and sparked the fire in her heart. But then, the unthinkable happened, something that would change her life forever. Lele was involved in a physical altercation that left her unable to speak or walk for months. It took an entire year of rehabilitation just for Lele to regain mobility and relearn how to speak. The impact of the trauma was so great that Lele was unable to continue running her hairdressing business. Worse yet, she was told she would have to live on a disability grant for the rest of her life. The doctors gave her a slim chance of healing, but Lele refused to let this be the defining factor of her life story, and she changed her narrative.

Rising above circumstances

'Everything is done with one bead at a time' says Lele, and just like the small and patient steps involved in beadwork, she has applied the same philosophy to regaining control of her life. Beadwork gave Lele her life back, and also led to the birth of NtoZinhle Lifestyle in 2012. Named after her late friend, NtoZinhle meaning "Beautiful Things", this is exactly what the African-inspired fashion, accessories, and homeware brand is made of.

A helping hand

But everyone needs some help along the way to turn their vision into a success. And that's when she turned to FNB. Lele referred to FNB as 'the bank to hold your hand', explaining how FNB has gone over and above to make her business dreams come true, resulting in the upliftment of the local community, providing both jobs and inspiration to those around her. Lele has access to handy solutions that include online banking to ensure her business needs are met anywhere, at any time; Instant Solutions for help with the overall money management of her business; and eBucks Rewards that give her great incentives and savings just for transacting on her business account.

Creating a legacy

NtoZinhle Lifestyle is now a thriving business, employing over 55 women from impoverished communities in KwaNdebele and a group of diligent young men as leather craftsmen.

It is important to Lele that the skills she has learnt are passed down generations, and that beadwork is perceived as something not only traditional but also fashionable. A highlight according to Lele, was when NtoZinhle Lifestyle featured in the Fashion Without Borders Roadshow and was a prominent member at the SA Fashion Week pop-up - through FNB's unwavering support. From starting off in a small room behind her home in Soweto, Lele has been able to expand her business to fashion and homeware.

'The partnership with FNB for my business definitely means growth in a different direction. It means more people are going to know the brand. This partnership will open doors to similar businesses like mine,' says Lele.

With help from FNB, Lele was able to change the outcome of life that was presented to her. She was able to write her own story, creating her own path through her passion. When it comes to turning your dreams into a reality, all you need is talent, perseverance and a partner that shares your vision.

Visit the NtoZinhle website for more information

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