Crop it like it’s hot!

Crop it like it’s hot!

Thando Nxelewa gets to legitimately introduce himself as a “Hot Young Designer”. A title given to him by Nando’s, so you know it’s on fire.   

Chairing is caring

Thando’s life was turned around in 2020 when his design for the “space bench” got him a spot as one of the top twelve finalists in the Nando’s Hot Young Designer 2020 competition. They challenged designers to think of a bench that fit the age of social distancing and his space bench caught their eye.

Thando studied industrial design at the Tshwane University of Technology and worked in the corporate world at first.

He then asked himself the burning question:

What would it be like to go solo? As he says, it’s been a rocky road but an enjoyable one too.

Since Nxaex Studio opened in 2020, it’s created noteworthy contemporary, abstract and functional work. The story behind the studio’s name is a truly South African one: a grade four science teacher couldn’t pronounce Thando’s surname (white people dilemmas, am I right?) and so her mispronunciation – which ended up becoming a lifelong nickname – became his studio name too.

(If you’re struggling to pronounce it, listen to the soundbite at the top of Nxaex Studio’s listing.)

“I always try my luck”.

Yeah, we bet, Thando. And we’re pretty sure you also throw that “Hot Young Designer” bit in there whenever you can. We would.

C’mon baby light my fire

Family, friends, other small businesses and bigger companies have approached Nxaex Studio since it was started. One of the projects Thando’s currently creating is a custom-made table with built-in shelving. The client is working closely with him to make sure that all her specs are met. 

He works out of Made in Workshop (check them out if you haven’t already) and is enjoying getting so adept with the CNC machine that he’s beginning to really explore what he can get out of it.  The CNC and 3D printers are his “hero machines”, Thando says.

We know a bright spark when we meet one.

Our listings here at the Small Business Showcase are kindling spirits – they all have that creative spark, paired with an entrepreneurial spirit. Let’s keep their sparks ignited!

Contact Thando at and +27718923306. Check out his Insta.

P.S. Do you love it when a young artist gets some well-deserved recognition? Know a small business owner? Just like the sound of this guy, his story and his brand? Share this Small Business Showcase article far and wide: