What started as a simple desire to create her own unique brassieres – some made from wool and others decorated with colourful beads – has become a fashion hit, presenting 22-year-old Neo Mabokela with an opportunity for a thriving business.
University psychology student Mabokela, who learnt the art of crocheting at an early age, is stunned by her success, and has put her studies on hold to pursue her new venture, Yarneo, full-time.
“It has become my baby and I’m always excited for its growth and willing to sacrifice a lot just to see it live,” she says.
Her passion for crocheting dates back to the third grade, when she would watch in fascination as her grandmother’s busy fingers created works of art.
“Funniest thing is that I can’t pin a day or moment when I started being interested in crocheting, my grandma didn’t really teach me but I learned from observing her doing it,” she laughs.
“I remember just making a square mat with brown wool, I wonder what happened to it?”
DEMANDS SPARKS BUSINESS IDEA
As time went by, Mabokela started crocheting clothing items for herself which sparked demand from others. It took a while, but Mabokela eventually sported a good business opportunity.
“For many years I aborted everything that had to do with crocheting but the passion came back in 2015 when i was doing my first year in varsity,” she says.
“I just felt the need to re-learn crocheting,” she says of an art that many believe is for old folk, but which she says is equally fulfilling for young people.
Her love of crocheting is a permanent link with her grandmother,who mostly made mats out of recycling plastic bags rolled into makeshift “wool”.
“She recently passed on and I’m glad she left me with this gift that I’ll forever cherish in her memory,” Mabokela says.
The Pretoria-born young entrepreneur moved around a lot during childhood, changing schools so often that her grandmother feared it would destabilise her. But in restrospect Mabokela says the experience helped her.
“I think moving to a lot of places molded and shaped the person I am today,” she says.
“My grandma took me in when I was a few months old and I stayed with her in Limpopo which is where l started my schooling.”
The middle child in a relatively small family who adores her two brothers, Mabokela would like to adopt a child in the near future.
After setting aside her studies at the University of the Western Cape, she also plans to resume reading for a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, possibly next year.
But her business, Yarneo, is here to stay.
“I see Yarneo as a recognized brand and I also want to open crochet classes. I’m also looking for healthy partnerships with other successful creatives out there,” says Mabokela, who uses social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to market herself, and also visits craft centres for inspiration.
“I just want to be a powerful, successful black businesswoman.”
Written by Thembelihle Mkhonza