Nokulunga Mateta-Phiri

Managing Director, Creative Nestlings

It took Nokulunga Mateta-Phiri a while to find the courage to do what she really wanted to do in life.

At school in Khayelitsha she dreamt of being a journalist, fashion designer, a mural painter or the owner of some other creative business. Her ambitions were fuelled when she won a bursary to a week-long music journalism workshop at the Cape Town Jazz Festival.

Then reality got in the way and she worked at Woolworths and Spar so she wouldn’t burden her mother, who was raising four children singlehandedly.

She then got a job as a bank teller and took a business management course to hone her skills.

“Once you are in the rut of working you find yourself just flowing with it and forgetting your dreams,” she says.

Finally she took the plunge towards running a creativity-focused company, first by interning as an arts administrator at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective and the Visual Arts Network to gain experience and meet the right people.

Then she joined Creative Nestlings as a managing director, working with its founder, Dillion Phiri. They’re married now, and run the business together.

It’s a research and development company working to support entrepreneurs and their creative ventures.

“There is little support for emerging creatives who do not have money to provide for their passions and turn them into their livings,” she says. “So we provide support. Each request is unique, we are all about making ideas happen.”

Since a frightening number of young people are unemployed with little prospect of a formal job, they must use their talents to create work for themselves, she says.

“Creative Nestlings focuses on nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s fertile soil for me to be the journalist, designer and artist I have always wanted to be. And I understand the struggle to turn your passions into a living, so I am very happy to share the learnings.”

Now aged 25, she is planning to stage photography and street art exhibitions that address race, gender and human tolerance issues.

She is also forming a collective for young black women painters where painting opportunities will be shared so their portfolios grow. — Lesley Stones