Her handmade woolen mats are catchy. Watch her patiently weave them, and you will see the depth of passion and skill. For her, it is just a continuation of what has long been part of her life…wool, wool, wool. “Wool has followed me in all my days,” said the National University of Lesotho (NUL) trained entrepreneur, Tselane Sesiu, who is busy in the business of making woolen mats.
In primary school, she was working with wool. In high school, there was wool. She went to Lesotho College of Education (LCE) only to be schooled in wool. Even at the NUL, she met with wool. And, guess what, she is still hooked on wool.
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Handmade is cool. Her mats are handmade to imperfection. When you pick her mat, you cannot ignore the human feel that goes along with it. There is something beautiful about a product that has escaped the monotony, repetition and precision of a machine.
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That is the secret behind Sesiu’ products.
Today, we will try to look at the amazing journey both of an entrepreneur and a woolenprenuer—if there is such a thing, of course.
When she was young, she was always on her parents’ shop at the first opportunity—selling. “I started selling when I was only in Standard 2,” she related. In weekends, holidays, after-schools, she was in the shop, selling.
In her primary school years, she vividly recalls days when she was taught to make use of wool and crochet producing all kinds of traditional attire. They made the products and wore them during cultural ceremonies. Obviously, she still has fond memories of the good old days.
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And she still remembers days when she would use her love for selling as an excuse for not taking time to study her many school books. “That’s when I was in High School,” she said. Naughty days but they underpinned her love affair with entrepreneurship.
Even in her high school days, wool would still still stick to her like a postage stamp sticks to an envelope. “In those days, I was making scuffs and hats with wool as a student of Home Economics,” she said.
Then there was time for college (LCE). At this point she was prepared to try something different. Forget wool, she wanted to do Biology and Chemistry. It was a cool course to do. It was for the brightest. But, behold, shocking things still happen. She was admitted, not in Biology and Chemistry but in Home Economics. “I was offended,” she said.
Like most Basotho, she was made to believe that hand-crafting was for the “not-so-bright.” That is the sorry thinking that has bedeviled the once hardworking Basotho nation to this day. The handicapped thinking that It is lowly and backward to actually make things. You have to be a pure intellectual to be successful, the reasoning continues.
It helps to explain why our country is awash with intellectuals who know the temperature at the core of the sun. Intellectuals who can quote Plato and Aristotle. But intellectuals who don’t know how to grow cabbage or fruit trees.
Well, she was fortunate enough to be forced into a ‘dumb’ subject. It would drive her arrogance off the window. The subject did more than drive her arrogance, it reconciled her with her life-long friend—wool. “I again met with wool,” she said. In several of her projects at LCE, here she was, once again, making woolen products.
She then landed at the NUL. Here she did a course called Consumer Science. “This course is designed to give you all kinds of entrepreneurship skills,” she said, “among which, of course, was the use of wool to make a variety of products. I still remember being given a project to make clothing for new-born babies using wool.”
She did leave NUL and entered the outside world.Staying faithful to an entrepreneur in her, she was trying all kinds of businesses. That is, until she once got a call from the Ministry of Agriculture.
She was asked to participate in a training offered by Wool and Mohair Project Promotion (WAMPP). Once again, the word wool kept following her.
Therein, she learned, again how to make more products out of wool. In the past, it was part of school learning, nothing serious. This was different. She wanted to make a life out of wool now. “We were taught all kinds of interesting things we could make from wool,” she said. “Being so married to wool, the training was so easy to follow.”
Now she makes woolen mats which sell like hotcakes.