Meet Makeeda and Stuart Swan, a young South African couple that has sacrificed the comforts of having a stable income for the rollercoaster ride of starting a business. The Swans are the proud creators of Bettél: beautifully designed artisan made wooden timepieces that are meticulously handcrafted in Cape Town. Having been recently featured in SA Fashion Week, on television and in several magazines, Bettél is growing rapidly. We sat down with Makeeda and Stuart in their offices in Muizenberg to ask them some questions about the highs and lows of starting a business:
Starting up a new business can be extremely hard work and risky, especially when you’re young and don’t have much experience – what made you decide to take on this challenge?
After we got married we spent three months travelling together in Indonesia. By the time we came back we didn’t have much typical work experience, but we made it through so many challenges during our travels that we had this feeling of “if we can survive this we can survive anything” – and we decided to start a business!
We’re both very free-spirited and our personalities require us to have the space to express our creativity without the limitations of one particular job description. We were blessed to have the capital, the time and the drive to start something, so we did.
What have been the highlights & low points since you’ve started Bettél?
The creative process involved in designing and perfecting our product has been extremely challenging but very rewarding.
On the other hand running a start-up business has been a huge sacrifice in terms of our time and money. It’s like having a newborn baby (minus the dirty diapers, thank goodness!). We’ve invested so much of ourselves into Bettél but we are persevering because we believe that it will pay off. We have a deep passion for design, creativity and innovation, and a desire to empower South Africans through skills development and job-creation. For us, that is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that keeps us going!
It seems like you work together really well, what are your different roles?
Stuart: I design the timepieces and do the crafting of the watch bodies. My mechanical engineering background helps me combine the intricacies of nature with precision craftsmanship.
Makeeda: I sew the leather straps on our vintage sewing machine (truly, it’s 40 years old!) and handle the PR side of business (marketing, advertising and networking), in order to grow our client-base.
Makeeda and Stuart will be featured on Flits this Thursday, 26 November 2015, at 10pm on DSTV channel 144. The presenters will be giving away one unisex timepiece as part of a running competition!