By Xolile Mtshazo, Sunday World, 2017-06-15
Embryonic social entrepreneur Lethabo Motswaledi is bringing joy and everlasting memories to parents on how their unborn babies looked like during pregnancy.
The Newlands, Cape Town-based geometric engineering graduate founded her start-up, 3DPower, in 2014. Since then she has experienced unprecedented growth.
Motswaledi, 23, described geometric engineering as “the science of measurement, correlating design and layout in order to see the world in a three-dimensional (3D) environment or view”.
With her HelloBaby 3D prints, which she spent two years developing, Motswaledi now has clients ranging from doctors, who recommend her work to their pregnant patients, corporates, private clinics and hospitals. “It’s a project I’ve worked on internally, in mind, and externally, using electronics, together with my partner and classmate Matthew Westway.”
Motswaledi’s 3DPower is the first company in Africa to be credited with successfully converting 3D ultra-sounds into prints. “Moms absolutely love the 3D prints and are spreading the word. I’m now getting clients through word of mouth,” said Motswaledi.
“However, I don’t work directly with patients or expectant mothers, the doctors are the most important stakeholders between HelloBaby and their patients.
“Besides doctors, we now have a number of healthcare facilities recommending us to pregnant mothers, who in turn spread the word.
“The relationship dynamics are rapidly moving. The milestone was to have working relations with the national Fetal Assessment Centre, based here in Cape Town, as well as a few clients in Johannesburg.”
Motswaledi said although she would have gone to the mainstream corporate world after graduating, she always felt the urge to be independent and do her “own thing”.
“As a child who was fortunate enough to be from a family of accomplished individuals, I felt that I had big shoes to fill and that I had to make something of myself.”
With a business on the go in the competitive 3D printing industry, she is well on her way to filling those shoes.
She said she vividly recalls eagerly filling in the application for the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellowship, feeling like she was born to answer some of the questions and taking it far more seriously than her university application.
Her’s and Westway’s second product, The Hourglass Project, forms part of a nation-building project that enjoys support from both the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the World Design Organisation.
“I felt that regardless of what I studied, I would always ultimately pursue a life in entrepreneurship.”
With this in mind and her hands-on experience gained at the foundation, she turned down every job offer she received after graduating and chose instead to delve into the cut-throat world of start-ups.
“3DPower projects are starting to take most of my time. As we are approaching Mandela Day next month, we’ve a number of projects coming up that we’re doing in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Vodacom and Aspen Pharmaceuticals,” said Motswaledi.
“With the help of these organisations, we’re open to help empower other smaller start-ups to realise their vision.”
This is despite Motswaledi’s 3DPower still emerging and in its infancy stage.