She makes bags—she makes good bags. Her bags are classy, unique, and they are deliberately infused with a local taste. “When I make a bag, I make sure that there is often no question where it was made. There must be something that says, "made in Lesotho,” says the passionate National University of Lesotho (NUL) educated Rethabile Matela.
For that she uses a tweak of Seshoeshoe fabric, or something traditional, in most bags. Plus there are few fabrics that are more associated with Lesotho and Basotho than Seshoeshoe fabric.
When you see her bags, you are left with no doubt that you have met both an innovator and an entrepreneur. But her steely determination to succeed against all odds sums it all. “My parents would tell me to find a job somewhere. They are genuinely worried about me entering the often unpredictable world of business and entrepreneurship.”
That could be more so, in a country where young people are traditionally channelled to think that being a teacher, a doctor, a bank teller, and a government bureaucrat, is the very definition of success—that entrepreneurship is for only for the less educated.
Obviously, gone are the days! A young, bold generation of innovators and entrepreneurs is rising up and there is no stopping it!
Also, her loving parents have themselves to blame for her passion for entrepreneurship. That is because they are the ones who instilled the love for business in her at a very young age.
“Well, I am not sure whether they did it purposely or by design, but they have contributed in making me mad about business.”
You see, her parents are prolific entrepreneurs. Just one example, “at the age of nine, I was already going with them to Bloemfontein,” she said. Do you know what they were doing there? They were buying 20 to 25 litres of drinks, only to put it into smaller 5 Litre bottles for reselling. “I would be on their side as we bought the drinks, filled the bottles and sold.”
Sometimes, as she grew up, they would send her alone to do the selling.
(Apply for NULISTICE 2020 http://bit.ly/2MEE0e4)
What the parents obviously did not fully understand was that they were setting up a fire they would find it hard to extinguish—if at all.
This is how she used to rebut her parents, who are now, to their credit, getting slowly sold into her idea, “I am still young, let me give it a try. If I fail, let me fail fast, and then I will seek a job.”
When she was at Sefika High School, she was now selling sweets (“lipompong le masimba,” if you know what we mean). She would often take care of her personal needs such as transport to school and so on. And she would go for weeks without troubling her parents to buy her this and that.
Then she came to the NUL, where things happen. And she took Economics as a course.
She said in there, she met one Dr Maluke Letete and this is her recollection of what the Dr taught her in class. “Dr Letete used to tell us that to be real economists, we had to soil our hands building the economy,” she said.
Maybe the good Dr was trying tell them something, “the generation that came before you took pleasure on the intellectual, you guys should take pleasure on both the intellectual and the practical.”
(Business proposals for the second phase of the NUL Innovation Hub http://bit.ly/30DfFsC)
Just like her parents before him, the Doc probably did not fully appreciate that he was actually adding petrol to fire.
However, what was she to do?
At NUL, she used to watch videos of one entrepreneur who was laser focused on making bags. In time, she made up her mind. She would make bags. Plus, few, if anyone in Lesotho, was in the serious business of making very good bags.
Could this be an opportunity?
She graduated and pursued her dreams.
At times, she would get formal jobs which would side-track her a bit but she kept her dream alive. “In those times when I was employed, I used to envy the freedom of the independent entrepreneurs as they tested the waters to the limits and demonstrated their works in expos.”
She would occasionally fell like she was bottled up.
But such jobs had their purpose. They helped her to buy machines which she is using to this day to make her bags. Even in those days when she was formally employed, she would still borrow time in weekends to make bags. She couldn’t escape the passion.
Her business is beginning to mature.
And for her, it goes like this: Bags! More bags! Always bags!
Business proposals for the second phase of the NUL Innovation Hub http://bit.ly/30DfFsC
Apply for NULISTICE 2020 http://bit.ly/2MEE0e4