Based in Lesotho, Mantai Mpesi gained experience working for two years as the Craft Sector Development Officer for Action Lesotho, an Irish non-profit aiming to bring humanitarian and developmental aid to Lesotho. After graduating from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology with a degree in Business Information Technology, Mantai started her business, Handmade in Lesotho. She went on to cultivate partnerships with both South African and International designers, as well as retailers, connecting them with high-quality craft skills such as Basotho leather and wool products. She contributes a portion of her profits to the Action Lesotho Children Breakfast Club, feeding over 80 Basotho children breakfast every day.
Mantai attended Aid to Artisans’ Market Readiness Program (MRP) in 2018 with the goal of learning the US market, meeting importers, and establishing networks for her company. At the New York program and through her MRP Mentors, Mantai connected with new networks, gained valuable insights on her competition, as well as confidence in her own crafts. She left understanding the strength of trends in her work and how this may impact sales.
Now, Handmade in Lesotho is a central marketing and sales platform for 17 independently owned and artisan-run craft industries, acting as a link between the producers and buyers. Mantai is preparing to attend the Las Vegas Market with ATA’s Training for Entrepreneurs in Artisan Markets (TEAM) program this summer. As TEAM is the MRP’s natural successor, Mantai hopes to build off of what she learned last summer and expose her products to buyers in the US market, establish new buyer relationships, and learn best practices for exhibiting through TEAM coaching in Las Vegas.