Mabote youths turn trash into treasure

Lesotho Times - - News - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

Grow­ing up in the vil­lage of Ha Mabote, young Mapota Mapota knew he was des­tined for life in the cre­ative lane.

The young­ster would as­sem­ble bi­cy­cles from dis­carded scrap metal and tyres and then hire them out for a fee to his friends.

A mere 10-year-old at the time, Mapota would sur­prise his fam­ily, friends, neigh­bours and teach­ers with his ge­nius hence many are not sur­prised by the au­da­cious en­tre­pre­neur he has be­come today.

The 23-year-old sits com­fort­ably on one of the unique chairs he cre­ated so ar­tis­ti­cally from old car tyres and pal­lets.

He speaks of a happy child­hood in Ha Mabote, where he is run­ning his small but flour­ish­ing busi­ness, and this burn­ing de­sire to be “dif­fer­ent” and not be some­one’s em­ployee.

“i have al­ways loved us­ing my hands to earn a liv­ing. Even when i was a kid, i wanted to have lots of money and knew i never wanted to be em­ployed by some­one but to be my own boss,” said the for­mer Tsepo Pri­mary School as he stroked his art­work.

“And maybe this is why i started re­cy­cling used bike parts to make my own cy­cles and hire them out to my friends around our vil­lage.

“i was a happy child so com­ing up with ideas on how to make money wasn’t that dif­fi­cult for me. I al­ways had one good idea up my sleeve.”

one of those ideas has since made Mr Mapota and his child­hood friend, Thabang Mony­atsi (24), en­trepreneurs in their own right whose chairs, tables and cooler boxes could hold their own against house­hold ap­pli­ances from any rep­utable shop.

“Af­ter pass­ing my COSC (Cam­bridge Overseas School Cer­tifi­cate) at Methodist High School, i de­cided to do a three-year Elec­tri­cal En­gi­neer­ing di­ploma at Lerotholi Polytech­nic in 2010. The rea­son i went for this course was be­cause i sim­ply wanted to be my own boss; i wanted to do my own thing.”

With his eyes firmly on the ball, Mr Mapota de­cided not to wait un­til af­ter grad­u­a­tion to re­alise his en­trepreneurial dream.

“A year into my stud­ies, i de­cided to save and in­vest part of my NMDS (na­tional Man­power Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tar­iat) stipend, into my dream. I wasted my first-year grant but then re­alised my mis­take and vowed never to re­peat the blun­der again, so i bought a mo­tor­cy­cle with my sec­ond-year grant. i would dis­trib­ute car-pol­ish around Maseru us­ing this mo­tor­cy­cle.”

His friend, Thabang, was do­ing Civil En­gi­neer­ing at the same Lerotholi Polytech­nic, and the two de­cided to open a makeshift food out­let in Ha Mabote, to­wards the end of their third-year.

with busi­ness boom­ing, the two Mabote youths de­cided it was not proper that their cus­tomers had nowhere to sit as they con­sumed their food, which was mostly pap, stew, home­made bread and broiled meat.

“one thing for sure was that i didn’t want to spend our profit on chairs, so I de­cided to surf the in­ter­net for ideas. i came across many busi­ness con­cepts on how we could make use of sec­ond­hand ma­te­rial to build our own chairs for the cus­tomers.

“i came across beau­ti­ful chairs made out of used car tyres. That’s when i de­cided to give the idea a try and al­though the first prod­uct was not that strik­ing, at least the cus­tomers had some­where to sit.”

That was in 2014. And as time went by, the two friends con­tin­ued to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent de­signs un­til they per­fected their art that the cus­tomers would mar­vel at the cre­ation.

“Peo­ple started show­ing in­ter­est in our de­signs and we would be asked to make them some. with time the fur­ni­ture busi­ness grew and we now have so many cus­tomers and we have taken in two youths from this area to help. Some of the cus­tomers even bring their own de­signs when they want some­thing exclusive,” he said.

How­ever, Mr Mapota said de­spite the high de­mand, their busi­ness would never com­pro­mise on qual­ity for the sake of quan­tity.

“We only use low-pro­file tyres be­cause they are thin and strong enough to carry any weight. we have also moved into pro­duc­ing fur­ni­ture from used drums. we col­lect this used ma­te­rial from dif­fer­ent sources and some com­mu­nity mem­bers now who know the types of tyres that we need and al­ways keep them for us,” Mr Mapota said.

Their fur­ni­ture, he added, is be­ing sold in Maseru and Lady­brand in South Africa, and feed­back from the cus­tomers has been en­cour­ag­ing.

in ad­di­tion to the fur­ni­ture busi­ness, the part­ners are also into the car-wash and car pol­ish sale busi­ness, and of-course, the food out­let.

Asked if he sees him­self as con­tribut­ing to­wards a cleaner en­vi­ron­ment through the use of ma­te­rial that could be ly­ing around, in their prod­ucts, Mr Mapota beamed with pride.

“we all know used tyres are burnt ev­ery­where for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, pol­lut­ing our en­vi­ron­ment in the process. So we strongly see our­selves as a ma­jor player in en­sur­ing that our en­vi­ron­ment is clear and the air we breathe is not pol­luted,” Mr Mapota said.

“Maseru City Coun­cil has al­ready given us space to ad­ver­tise our prod­ucts free of charge af­ter mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials saw our mer­chan­dise and ap­pre­ci­ated the con­tri­bu­tion we are mak­ing to­wards a clean en­vi­ron­ment. we are hon­oured to be mak­ing a liv­ing out of a busi­ness ven­ture which is also con­tribut­ing to a big­ger pic­ture in this coun­try.”

How­ever, the two busi­ness part­ners are wor­ried about the fu­ture.

“our big­gest chal­lenge is as the busi­ness grows and or­ders pour in, get­ting tyres is slowly be­com­ing a night­mare be­cause guys spin­ning cars al­ways beat us to them. They put the tyres around their spin­ning area in Masianokeng,” he said.

“we are fur­ther com­pet­ing with peo­ple mak­ing bricks ( setene sa man­gopeng) as they use the tyres to burn their prod­ucts and make them stronger. And be­cause they are not par­tic­u­lar with the qual­ity, they take ev­ery­thing that comes their way.”

He fur­ther said some con­men were tar­get­ing their po­ten­tial cus­tomers and tar­nish­ing their im­age through shoddy work.

“A very an­gry man once came here com­plain­ing that we had sold him a very poor qual­ity prod­uct. Af­ter calm­ing him down, he soon re­alised that the per­son who had made the fur­ni­ture for him was not us, but some­one pre­tend­ing to be us.

“not only did this alert us of such fraud­sters, it also made us re­alise that we would soon have se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion. This also showed us that we needed to be on our toes and never rest on our lau­rels.”

Mr Mapota urged fel­low youths to use the in­ter­net wisely and not de­vi­ous pur­poses.

“The time has come for the youth not to use the in­ter­net for mis­chief and en­ter­tain­ment only but also to re­search ideas.

“i am not ad­vis­ing them to do some­thing which i haven’t tried. i used the in­ter­net to come up with these beau­ti­ful de­signs and there are more ideas on the net they could still take up and make a life for them­selves.”

Mr Mapota spoke of how he also en­hanced his car pol­ish sale ini­tia­tive when he was still a stu­dent at Lerotholi Polytech­nic.

“Like i said, i was us­ing a mo­tor­bike i had had bought from my Man­power sav­ings, to de­liver the prod­ucts.

“How­ever, i knew sell­ing pol­ish wasn’t enough to make the kind of money i wanted, so i had to come up with ideas on how i could at­tract clients. Be­cause of my Elec­tri­cal En­gi­neer­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion, I can main­tain and re­pair bro­ken hoovers, which are the ba­sic equip­ment for any car-wash busi­ness.

“For ev­ery busi­ness that buys pol­ish from me, i re­pair all their bro­ken hoovers free of charge. All they need to do is pay for my trans­port and ma­te­rial i would use. This has set me apart from fel­low pol­ish sup­pli­ers, and en­hanced my busi­ness.”

How­ever, Mr Mapota said he still finds it dif­fi­cult to con­vince his mother that he does not need to be for­mally em­ployed.

“Al­though i don’t see my­self be­ing em­ployed, my mother isn’t very happy with what i am do­ing at the mo­ment. She feels this is not good enough for me but i am work­ing ex­tra hard to prove to her that be­ing my own boss is ac­tu­ally a very good idea,” Mr Mapota said.

“in fact, what par­ents should do is en­cour­age their chil­dren to make good money and build their own legacy through hard work.

“i want to build my own legacy now and not when i am an old man. we are dif­fer­ent peo­ple. Some be­lieve in be­ing em­ployed while i am anti-em­ploy­ment be­cause of this hunger to be suc­cess­ful and build a last­ing legacy my fam­ily will be proud of.”

Mapota Mapota puts some fin­ish­ing touches to one of the chairs.

ABOVE and be­low: Some of the fin­ished prod­ucts on dis­play.

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