Feeling African - More than a feeling

Thanks to CBI support, Cape Town-based wire furniture manufacturer Willard Musarurwa has taken his company to the next level and the confidence this has given him has convinced him he can take the company even further.

It was back in 2001 that Willard Musarurwa founded his company, Feeling African. The name, he explains, is a direct reference to the emotion he wants to instil in the customers who buy his products, contemporary hand-made wire furniture and accessories. Musarurwa embarked on his entrepreneurial journey by making wire toys and trinkets for tourists. Then, after entering into partnerships with a local design institute, he was encouraged to design and produce larger items that could be used in the home.

Quality and innovation
Since 2015 Feeling Africa, which now has seven employees, has been participating in a CBI Export Coaching Programme (ECP), which will conclude in 2018. Less than halfway into the programme he has already learned plenty, he insists. “Take product quality, for example. The ECP has made me aware that I’m competing with many other companies from Asia and South America and that good quality is an absolute must. Innovation is also important. If you keep developing and improving existing products and offering customers new ones you can consolidate your position and open new markets.”

Key role
Thanks to CBI’s intervention, Feeling African is now exporting its products, continues Musarurwa. Previously, he mainly supplied interior designers and architects in South Africa, but CBI has enabled him to enter the export markets and there are even a few large department stores in Europe that are interested in his products. Attending trade fairs has also played a key role, he says. “They open doors to new customers, increase the potential of existing customers in local and international markets and they give you a good idea of current trends and what the competition is doing.”

CBI also strengthened Feeling African by flagging up potential weaknesses. “We had an issue in the area of communication. The ECP stressed upon us that, irrespective of whether your news is good or bad, it’s vital that you communicate relevant information to customers, such as when they can expect to receive the goods they have ordered. We were also shown how to tighten up other areas of our business and this has made us more competitive.”

Story-changing contribution
Musarurwa is also full of admiration for CBI expert Solly Levy, who provided all the ECP coaching and support locally in South Africa and made what he refers to as a story-changing contribution towards Feeling African’s ascent to the next level. “Looking at my business as it is now and what it was before, I salute Mr Levy for doing an amazing job.”

Looking ahead, Musarurwa now wants to grow his business into a globally recognised provider of high-quality products and an international role model for similar companies in the sector. “And it’s an ambition I feel CBI and the ECP will help me realise,” he concludes.

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