Growing up in a neighbourhood called Kabokweni situated in Nelspruit, Nick Nyalungu was noticed the stacks of by-product tyre inner tube in his friend’s Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa depot and this sparked the idea to make a leather handbag. He bought a patching needle and waxed string and made his first bag, he finished it in the early hours of the morning and decided to drive to Gauteng to show it to his wife,Nicole.
She was still in the corporate world and holding the family finances together until she fell in love with the bag and decided to resign from her corporate and supported her husband’s dreams. “Having resigned from my job, I founded Nick & Nichol’s in 2016 off the back of a dollar and a dream, and with two young children, it wasn’t plain sailing but I wanted to pursue the entrepreneurial spirit” adds Nick
They began to tap into the broader community and met with Ethnie Cameron, who liked their idea. Nicole says “We knew nothing about making bags and she linked us to Trevor Selke, owner of Selke Bags. Trevor mentored us and offered the use of his factory for us and shared his list of suppliers. We knew what we needed in order to be successful get to but we couldn’t afford some of the equipment”. The Nyalungu’s faced hardships of having to cut down on expenses and adapting to a smaller home in Mpumalanga. They moved in with a family they didn’t know who kindly offered the family of four, a single room, in a small home in Bushbuckridge, near Hazyview, Mpumalanga.
“Tapping into the vegan trend was not deliberate. It happened through the lens of having to make something from nothing. I knew we were on to something, but I wasn’t quite sure yet what. We faced scepticism and naysaying from our respective families. This journey has taught me that when intention comes from a place of love, to make a positive impact, you need resilience” says Nicole.
The young couple believed that the waste would have become part of the planet-destroying and ever-mounting landfill. According to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, “People tend to think that just because something is made out of plastic, it automatically must be the least environmentally-friendly option. However, when considering how much it takes to stop a piece of cow skin from decomposing, animal leather is right at the bottom of the sustainable materials list. Not to mention the amount of food, water and land consumption, and methane gas production by cows, as well as the harmful chemicals used in the tanning process”.
Fast forward a bumpy road and a few years later, through the generous help of family, friends, locals and even tourists whom they met along the way, Nick & Nichol’s has the necessary equipment and a lucrative shop at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River! Their range of bags are fashionable and edgy and they have exported their classic cuts around the world and take bespoke orders too.