An interview with the 3 Mji sisters who let their hearts lead the way

  1. 1. Please tell me a bit of background (each of you) regarding your career, where you’ve lived/studied and how you all ended up back in Durban and starting a business venture together?

 

Zamo:  I’m currently living in Cape Town where I teach yoga. I relocated there after leaving my practice as an advocate in Johannesburg. In some ways it feels like completing a cycle as I studied law at uct. One of the reasons I left law is that I wanted to explore and give more expression to my creative side. Heart leads the way is an avenue for this. I could say ( with a slight fear of sounding corny ) in deciding to follow my heart, I was led this way.

 

I am nosizwe. I have recently returned home after living in nyc for past 4yrs. My decision to move back home was primarily based on me taking the decision that Africa is where I want to be. It’s through this lens that I want to see the world. It is here I want grow and build. It’s here where I want to make my mistakes and it’s here I want to celebrate my victories. Heart leads the way was born of this resolution. It both anchors us whilst providing the space for us to do the work we want to do. Other than heart leads the way, I teach yoga.

 

I’m

,  a freelance writer. After moving all around the country and also spending a stint in the U.S I came home and found I was most inspired by Durban. The people,  immersing myself in my language, connecting with my family and learning more about my history helped me to find myself as a writer. Durban also helped me to find myself creatively beyond writing, and heart leads the way is how I express that creativity. While I was in the process of forming myself as a person I also wanted to make sure I play my part in making it easier for others to do the same.

 

 

  1. How did you find the women that bead the shoes for you. Please tell us a bit about this partnership and how it worlds (how they benefit)?

 

We grew up in the Clermont township, Durban. In Clermont there is a HIV/AIDs clinic and home based care centre that supports members of the community infected and affected by the disease. St Clements is a non profit, so to generate income they opened a creative centre on the premises where women sew and bead. That is where heart leads the way products are produced.

 

  1. What’s been the most fascinating / eye-opening experience about running a business, especially because you guys are related?

 

You like us! You really like us! Seeing how people across the country and the world who don’t even know us, take the time and effort to support us.

 

The discipline of creativity. From our business philosophy, to our creative direction and vision, maintaining our relationship with our customers: We have no shortage of dreams and ideas for all of those things but the challenge is keeping at it, manifesting our ideas and committing to keep refining them.

 

Follow through, lots of ideas and seeing them to the fullest. Lot of leg-work to bring ideas to life. The Discipline that creativity requires

 

  1. Where can people find your products and how did you go about finding the market for your products?

 

In Durban, we are stocked at the breathing space, a yoga studio in glenwood. The space is run by Fatima Vawda-Thomas. It was a natural connection because it’s where we practice yoga and where sizwe teaches. 191 Bulwer Road, Glenwood.

 

In cape town, we were introduced to vuyo Koyana who manages the pan african market on long street.  It’s an emporium of African art. She connected us with metcheum Flore shop. It’s on the 2nd floor of the pan african market.

76 Long Street.

 

We’re also stocked at Exodus Goods in New Orleans, a hub of independant designers co-owned by Lizzy and Darlene Okpo, Solanges Knowles and Armina Mussa.

 

518 Conti Street, French Quarter.

 

  1. What do you enjoy the most about working together? Also, what do you hate…

 

We’re answering these questions from our holiday in Dakar, Senegal. One of the best things is the seamless blend between fun and work that is enabled by our relationship. On the other hand, we’re answering these questions from Dakar, Senegal. It’s harder to take time off when your business partners are at home, and with you on all holidays, family events etc.

 

It’s also awkward when someone’s not replying to whatsapps in our business group but is chatting away in the family group!

 

This business has added another layer to our relationship. We have seen talents and strengths in each other that we didn’t know about before we started this.

 

Love my sisters, love having a relationship where I can be myself, celebrating our Victories

 

Love and hate that we know each other very well

 

  1. Any plans to open a stand-alone store?

 

Yes, we are working on a space that is going to cater to all of our interests.

 

  1. 8. Who is your biggest market?

 

Our clients often tell us that they’re drawn in by our Facebook and Instagram. One client called it a “lovefest.” Our customers identify with us, our curiosity, love of travel, yoga, art, music and our strong sisterhood with each other and those in our networks. They’re young and fly and like cute things, of course, because they buy our shoes and jewellery.

 

  1. What’s the philosophy behind Heart Leads the way?

 

When we started heart leads the way we’d all escaped formal employment determined to find new, more liberating ways of supporting ourselves. We also wanted to explore a way of doing business that aligned with our feminist values by promoting collaboration between women. How do we help each other to realise our best lives? One of our core founding values is “Community will save us all from the bondages of unfulfilling lives.” Germaine Greer said it best, “The opposite to patriarchy is not matriarchy but fraternity, yet I think it’s women who are going to have to break this spiral of power and find the trick of cooperation.”

 

Hence the name, Heart Leads the Way. We feel there is more room in commerce/business for what’s traditionally considered feminine traits such as empathy, intuition, generosity and consideration as the traditional masculinized emphasis on competitiveness and bottom lines perpetuates a cycle that will always leave certain groups (like black women) marginalised at the bottom. If we all listen to our hearts we’ll all know how to treat ourselves and each other.

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