This article first appeared on Playyourpart.co.za
Power team Rea Ngwane (22) and Thato Kgatlhanye (21) together have developed and successfully launched a community driven business in Rustenburg situated in the North West province after almost four years in the making.
These young, vibrant entrepreneurs hail from the small town of Mogwase and have, with diverse mindsets and innovation, a company called Rethaka Trading (Pty) Ltd. Under which Repurpose Schoolbags was developed. Both have grown up together and attended primary and high-school side-by-side, which was the start of a long and productive friendship.
The idea of Rethaka came to the minds of these young entrepreneurs years ago. This idea became a reality last year when Kgatlhanye entered a competition run by SAB. The task: to create an organic product which was a mimic of nature? She created a bag which mimicked a bird’s nest. Her design placed her third in the competition and won her R300 000 of working capital, to start her own business and get it off the ground.
The Ngwane is a BCom student who had always dreamed of becoming a chartered accountant. She attends the University of Johannesburg studying towards her Marketing Management degree. Ngwane describes herself as a forward-thinker, someone who always has a curiosity about the “other”, the “what else” – simply an architect of social eminence.
Ngwane and Kgatlhanye set up Rethaka, a company that aims to combine business with social good. Rethaka’s first business venture was an environmentally-friendly innovation called Repurpose Schoolbags. Rethaka (Pty) Ltd is a for-profit, woman-owned business, based in Rustenburg, South Africa.
These ladies chief division is their Repurpose Schoolbags innovation. These are bags which are in essence designed to do more with less. Targeted at children from underprivileged communities where electricity is a privilege for the few, The bags are made of 100% repurposed plastic textile and have imbedded in them solar panels which charge during the child’s walk to school, later transforming into a solar lantern useful for them to use as light for studying for up to 12 hours.
The bags are made from plastic which is found at landfills schools and households. The duo has also set up “plastic-purpose textile banks” which are bins they have erected outside schools and churches to collect dumped plastic. This plastic then goes through an intensive process of cleaning, debranding and ironing before it is creatively sewed into a stylish design by the team of seven full-time employees at their warehouse in Tlhabane, Rustenburg.
As the operational & financial Manager, Ngwane’s role is to cost effectively and efficiently facilitate the process from material purchase to manufacturing, final product and inventory control. Ngwane says she is playing her part in ensuring that her social entrepreneurship provides impactful solutions for those who need them the most.
Kgatlhanye who also refers to herself as the “Struggling billionaire” is a young South African who believes in second chances. She used this to not only fuel her career as an author, of a book she and her co-author wrote in 27 days called “Start an empire with a brand”, but also as a young entrepreneur who saw an opportunity for school kids who needed a second chance at their education.
As the Brand & Marketing Manager of Rethaka, Kgatlhanye ensures that she effectively communicates the companies green innovations and how they redefine societal problems into solutions. She believes she belongs to a new generation of leaders placing themselves as change agents. She has worked in New York with marketing guru Seth Godin during a New York internship and is a recent graduate of a BA in Brand Management from Vega, The School of Brand Leadership. Kgatlhanye was also selected to be one of 18 South African social entrepreneurs to attend the 10 day Red Bull Amaphiko Academy in 2013.
The duo sees their company going further in the coming years and plan on developing another subsidiary luxury brand called Purpo which will be a range of fashion bags for woman and corporates which will reiterate the message of being green and being fashionable. Along with this they design corporate bags which are specifically designed for laptops, IPads and notebooks. 10% of sales of these bags go to the manufacturing of schoolbags.
The one thing Kgatlhanye says she wants to see change in the country is South African youth dreaming audaciously and the issue of funding for education being eradicated Ngwane says she dreams of the day when we as people fail to see the difference in others, we fail to see race as a defining factor of a person. Until that day comes these women say they will continue uncovering opportunities.
“If we see an opportunity in cutting cheese, we will cut cheese.”