Phenomenal Woman Vanessa O’Donoghue in the Business of Luxury Leather Handbags


Everything you want is on the other side of fear. You must have courage and step into the woman you know you are meant to be.

Passionate, loving and motivated are the three words that best describe this very remarkable business woman.  Making small, meaningful and impactful changes in others is what gets her going.  Family is everything to her, she says.  She is married and describes her husband as her rock, her best friend, and her business partner.  Her daughters give her reasons to look forward to another day.

We get up-close and personal to learn how this astounding woman balances work, family and self.  Gain insights to what sets her business apart and learn worthwhile key lessons.  Be encouraged to rise to your highest self.  You can find a selection of the Mintaka Leather handbags through the Luxury Xclusives Boutique

Tell us about yourself and Family?

Family is not by blood and marriage, I consider my friends as my family too.  I am a working Mom of two daughters. While it of utmost importance to set the example for my family, my relatives are also incredibly important to me, I keep them close to my heart. I have a business with my sister-in-law and she is one of my best friends. My brother and I are extremely close, and he is a huge support pillar in my life.

How do you balance family, work and self

It can be a bit of a struggle sometimes, especially now while the kids are doing home-school. I have had to set boundaries, but also change the way I work. My To-do lists and prioritising work has been key.  When I leave work, I am fully present with my family. Weekends are blocked out for family time.

Tell us about Mintaka?

Mintaka is an incredibly special brand that is very close to my heart. It was launched with empowering women in mind. Our factory is women focused and employs 95% women. What keeps me going and pushing forward with Mintaka is that I know it gives these women an income and that each of them feed a minimum of 5 people at home as they are the breadwinners. I strongly believe that every woman is deserving of her own independence.  Our factory is based in Randburg, Johannesburg. Currently we sell online, which makes us a national brand. Our vision is to become a global brand.

Being a family business, each person has their own “super-power” that they bring to the table.  All that expertise put together is what has built Mintaka to what it is today. We support each other, encourage each other, and importantly we respect one another. This gives us room to disagree, bounce ideas around and find the best solution.

Employees describe Vanessa as an innovative and inclusive leader. She has a fantastic grasp of the business and industry and is always looking for unique opportunities and ideas to grow her products and expand into new markets. Although she is very focused on the business, she is also able to bring in an element of fun and creativity to the team.  We are 95% women.

We source all our leather locally from a tannery in Cape Town.

What challenges as a woman do you face in your industry and how best can we address these challenges?

I am incredibly lucky to be backed by Mandy Owen who has been in the leather manufacturing industry for over 30 years. She is so well respected in the industry and has knowledge that I can only hope to have one day. If it weren’t for her, I think I would have faced many challenges.  The manufacturing industry is male dominated and you are dealing with suppliers for machinery etc which can also be very male orientated.

The fashion industry brings its’ own set of challenges. I have found that the industry in South Africa can be very clicky and not always welcoming and open to support one another. I am a strong believer of cheering the woman next to me on and supporting her.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business?

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the manufacturing industry. We have heard of many factories closing down, as well as a few of our customers. Lockdown and social distancing as meant that our focus has had to shift to online business.

COVID-19 has been our biggest challenge to date. We are still very much in it and doing our best to push through it. It is our mission to survive this and be able to have our factory running at full capacity in the near future.

Achievements and Milestones of the Mitaka Brand?

Launching our online store was a mammoth task. I don’t think any of us realised the huge range of product and variation we have until we started building our eCommerce store.  Launching the Lynn Forbes collection in collaboration with Lynn Forbes and Stone Culture was an amazing journey where we learnt so much about each of the brands.   Being featured in numerous luxury magazines, as this reinforces that we are on the right path.

Being invited to a photoshoot alongside Louis Vuitton and Gucci- never in a million years did I think that I would have Mintaka in the same photoshoot and featured next to these luxury brands.

What lessons and business advise can you share with other women?

Before getting into a partnership with anyone, make sure your values and brands align. Trust your gut when having these conversations, if something feels off, it most likely is.

Don’t force a partnership, it should just feel right. To make any partnership work you have to meet on a regular basis and offer value to one another. Partnerships are about you both working at it, not just the one party.

What does being in the business of Luxury mean for you?  

*She laughs* I think that very often people think that it is way more glamorous than what it really is behind the scenes. For me it is about setting the trend and creating a sustainable business that supports the team.

What has been the key differentiators in setting your business apart as a woman?.

One of the biggest things is knowing your customer so you can serve them well. I think as women we are lucky here, as we are far more emotionally in tune to the needs of others and this really helps in creating what the customer wants.

Secondly we are Proudly South African and pride ourselves in using locally sourced materials as much as possible.

What are the key things and advise you can give when it comes to delivering a luxury brand?

Quality, quality, quality!!! Don’t ever cut corners in your product, it is never worth it. We only use the best materials that we can find.

Service. Without superior customer service you can never build the relationships with your customer that they deserve from a luxury brand that keeps them coming back to you.

Love your customer more than you love your product, because when you do that you will create a product that your customer loves and tells everyone about!

With the global shift to digital how has Mintaka adopted to digital transformation?

We are adapting well to digital transformation.  Although we haven’t been able to open our Boutique Factory Shop or do any of the pop-up stores that we had planned on for the year due to Covid-19.  So far, our social media channels and newsletters prove to me most effective time and time again.

Know who you are talking to. Not every message that you put out there needs to be a sales message. Always make sure you are adding value. If you ever outsource, it is your job to ensure that you equip your agency with the information on your customer and brand as no one knows or loves your brand more than you do

What is the one advise you can give to other women entrepreneurs and how do you define success

Everything you want is on the other side of fear. You must have courage and step into the woman you know you are meant to be.

Success is growth and fulfilment.

If you were to be the president of your country what is the one thing you would change and why?

I would make all sanitary towels and tampons free; no girl or woman should EVER be in a position where they have to go without these basic needs. If condoms are given away freely, tampons and pads should be too.

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