Women in Business: Uyilo Studio

From a young age, entrepreneur Leigh Desai knew that she had an innate ability to be creative.


From sketching Barbie dolls to making personal Microsoft birthday cards for friends and family, she later found herself spending hours creating invitation designs in art programs on the family PC during her high school days which quickly led to regular side hustles for extra money.


“I graduated with a degree in Design and not long after that, I found myself facing my first major challenge when I was approached to teach Graphic Design at the Peninsula Technikon,” shares Leigh. “That undoubtedly changed the trajectory of my creative journey. Seventeen years later, I decided it was time to move on from the Cape Peninsula University of technology and pursue a new direction. Working with students and gaining new knowledge as a design educator propelled my thinking professionally but also continuing to evolve as a creative, to be curious, to do more and explore more in the field of design.”


The professional designer went on to co-found Mzanzi Kids Edu App and Uyilo Studio.


“Uyilo studio is a lean creative team offering multidisciplinary design and creative services varying from print to digital. We have a strong focus on brand identities and brand development. We don’t have a one size fits all approach, but adapt to our client’s needs so they feel that good chemistry right from the beginning,” says the co-founder.

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Leigh shares she was inspired to start her business whilst she was an educator.


“I continued freelancing projects on weekends and in my spare time, doing the occasional pro bono work for non-profit organizations and individuals who needed creative work for their businesses. Unknowingly this sparked my interest in business which brought a tingling sense of fulfilment,” says Leigh.


“I then made a conscious decision to start-up my first official online freelance business in 2005, called ‘The LogoboxSA’.”

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Going solo in designing logos and brand development for so many years has heightened her ability to work autonomously and trust her insights in working with various clients and challenging projects.


“In 2017, I pursued a dream project and co-founded the ‘Mzanzi Kids Educational App’. The Uyilo Studio was birthed from continuous unsuccessful attempts of funding applications, so we eventually decided to bootstrap our way into funding the development ourselves.”


The App project was completed end of 2018 and successfully launched in 2019.


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“We quickly realised the potential of our growth within one year and envisioned more opportunities to develop educational products for the future. Uyilo Studio has grown tremendously in a short space of time, taking us out of our comfort zone in tackling new challenges and adapting to not only our creative environments but the global economy.”

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She adds that the exposure in the Women in Business programme has steered her with confidence in integrating various tech tools that allowed her to operate in a more robust way of managing her business efficiently.


“Not only was it a pleasant experience engaging with like-minded women in an online space, but it was great connecting beyond the WIB programme to network and collaborate. I would recommend the WIB programme to friends and women in business, as I feel that it facilitates the learning process of exploring various tech tools and a window of new knowledge that can be applied to one’s business. It also provides an appropriate platform for women to share their knowledge, experiences and challenges within their business journeys.”

If you are a female founder/CEO and would like to participate in the Women in Business Programme for 2021, apply now.