From a garage lab to two Proudly SA cosmetic brands
Entrepreneur celebrates her African heritage
An engineer by profession, Rearabetswe Dire said it’s about time that we embrace African-named cosmetic products.
The 27-year-old from Ga-rankuwa, outside of Pretoria, has two Proudly SA approved brands under her belt in just over a year – one for women called Montle and another for men called Pantsula.
“I have never really understood why we romanticise foreign languages as appealing and sexy but never our own African languages. Montle means beautiful in Setwana and women use cosmetics to enhance their natural beauty. My products aim to enhance that beauty and boost their confidence.
“My inspiration behind the men’s range is as a result of the South African arts and music culture. These days we hear many musicians referring to themselves as amapantsula. Bucket hats have become so fashionable even big brands are leveraging from the pantsula subculture. Why can’t we?” she says about the inspiration for her men’s range.
“I believe that celebrating our heritage and expressing it in a modern form is what Pantsula cosmetics represents. I am a proud South African girl who believes that identity is a very imperative component in any business.”
She said her journey into the beauty business was as a result of her quitting a toxic work environment.
Having studied chemical engineering at the Tshwane University of Technology, she worked as an intern at a chemical consulting company. But she said she quit in 2019 after she found out what her white peers were earning and the company refusing to give her time off after her dad passed away.
“The environment was racist and I was doing a whole lot more than the other interns who were getting paid a whole lot more. They were also giving me projects, which set me up to fail. So I worked up the courage and left not knowing what I was going to do next, and then Covid came – but it was my saving grace,” she said.
Dire said she went back to school to read for her master’s in chemical engineering and came across a South African Nuclear Energy Corporation scholarship to create your own product.
“They basically come up with the formulation and you have to perfect it. I fell in love with it. I experimented with perfumes and creams and other stuff.”
She set up a mini-laboratory in her mother’s garage just as the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Dire said she started blending mostly natural products that help nourish and heal the skin.
Dire said the use of sanitisers boosted her business as more and more people sought something to nourish their dry hands due to constantly sanitising.
She said she has no desire to go back into the corporate world and will be releasing more products. “I intend on growing our product range offering, focusing on personal care products.”