Ep 2: Design, manufacturing, and facing up to the realities of building a business when you have no Plan B with Siyanda Mbele

In this episode, I chat with interior and furniture designer Siyanda Mbele. Siyanda is the founder of Pinda Design, the design studio he set up in his hometown of Durban, South Africa. He designs and manufactures hand-painted furniture inspired by South Africa’s diverse cultures. Siyanda’s interest in producing products began whilst studying Interior design at Durban University Of Technology. Upon graduation he started freelancing do interior drawing for other design companies, as well as lecturing part-time which gave him the freedom to earn a base income to fund his business. 

Learning the manufacturing side of producing his designs was a long process of trail and error, but in the end, he got there, showcasing the products at trade shows and attracting the attention of local and international buyers. Siyanda’s work has a lot of symbolism drawn from his Zulu heritage. Putting his culture in his designs is important to him because he wanted to contribute something that has more context, that Africans can relate to, that tells a story. The process of exploring his heritage led to him doing research and in the process learning more about his culture and other peoples culture too that I didn’t know, but I thought I knew.

We talk about:

  • The financial implications of starting design business – finding funding and getting support from family to support his dream
  • The costs of manufacturing, and finding the right manufacturers to work with
  • Who turns to for advice and business support
  • The early mistakes he made and how he fixed them
  • Learning to connect and negotiate with global buyers
  • The challenges of getting his product to market, logistics shipping internationally from the continent and how he works around the challenges
  • The role of culture in design, the impact it has on society, and why it’s important for him to express his culture in his designs
  • Cultural shifts in South Africa, and the emergence and impact of young black furniture and product designers making a name for themselves and contributing to the South African design aesthetic, and what has changed to make this possible

“If you are in tune with who you are it is easier to create authentic product, designs or services.” – Siyanda Mbele

Links and resources mentioned in this episode

Durban University Of Technology – https://www.dut.ac.za/course/bachelor_of_technology_interior_design/

Design Indaba – https://www.designindaba.com

SABS Design Institute – http://design.sabs.co.za

Where you can go to find out more about Siyanda

Instagram: @pindadesign | @siyanadmbele


You can listen to the podcast on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android)

And before you go I have a favour to ask, if you could you take a few minutes to do the three R’s: that is rate it, review it, and recommend it to anyone you feel would benefit. It will really make a difference and I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks again.

Tapiwa Matsinde

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