Soap making made easy with Mohalalitoe

MASENTLE MAKARA

Young unemployment Basotho graduates cannot even to afford to buy envelopes to put their application letters and it is heart-rending to see a young man pregnant with dreams and energy holding a torn envelope searching for a job from one office to the next.The National University of Lesotho, together with the government and the private sector have put their heads together to train youths, especially learners, become entrepreneurs instead of looking for white-collar jobs.

Lesia Matlali is one of the products from NUL whose project is going to be funded by Metropolitan under the scheme. The 27-year-old and his partners Limpho Moiloa and Setlhare Jane produce a soap called Mohalalitoe Natural Soap. Loosely translated Mohalalitoe refers to a beautiful wild flower. In an interview this week Public Eye this week, Matlali said the three of them have been working together since the time they were classmates pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Technology, which they completed in 2014

“We came up with a project of producing a soap and Mohalalitoe came up as NUL product. Then we wanted to make our own brand. Then idea to produce soap came after graduation when we thought of establishing a company that would produce soap and teach Basotho how to make soap and make a living instead of being hired.” At the moment the trio has stopped producing soap because of capital constraints.

“We produced a small consignment and people liked it. It was just a pilot initiative but customers kept calling wanting more of Mohalalitoe. Currently we cannot produce because funding arrangements are still in progress,” he revealed.Mohalaitoe is one of the six projects that are going to be funded by Metropolitan Lesotho. Metropolitan has given away M1 million to the NUL Innovation Hub projects which includes a text to speech app for worldwide sales, smart home automation systems, Lefika artificial cladding stone , food products, poultry and Mohalalitoe natural soap. Mohalalitoe is estimated to take up to M134, 000.00 of the funding.

Matlali said as soon as they get funding they want to commercialise the business and produce more up to industrial standards. “We only produced 100 soaps as a trial and we sold each soap for M20. So now we need to increase the production to an estimated 120 pieces of soap a day and we are planning to hire at least two people for a start,” Matlali said.Mohalalitoe differs from other soaps as it contains glycerine, unlike most soap varieties in local shops.

The young entrepreneur added they named the product “natural soap” because it is made up of natural products only. Interestingly it can be made with any oil of a producer’s choice, be it vegetable oil, coconut oil, olive oil, shear butter or animal fat and Sodium Hydroxide. “Glycerine is good for retaining the skin’s moisture and makes the soap easier to use whereas other soap producing companies produce glycerine separately from the soap. This practice compels them to add some chemicals that could be hazardous to the skin, which may result in pimples, rash, or skin bleaching. Sometimes they ensure the soap produces foam when being used.”

Among the ingredients used in producing Mohalalitoe is carrots, which Matlali said has a chemical which helps the skin to generate new skin cell since cells always die. Another is aloe, which he said helps close some wounds while milk and lightens the skin without bleaching it. Though there is a chemistry department at NUL responsible for testing this kind of products, Matlali said since they wanted the product to be made by ordinary people even without any sound educational background, they used the internet instead of laboratories to check if the outcomes were the expected ones.

Epidemiologists recommend most of the soaps similar to Mohalalitoe for skin problems. Matlali and his team conduct workshops to educate people on how to make Mohalalitoe soap though they have to give it another name since Mohalalitoe is a NUL brand. He said at their first workshop, people came in numbers but now they come in fewer numbers. “I do not know why our workshops are unattended since the training is free. We educate people to create jobs, not to get hired. We want to turn people into producers instead of consumers. This is so simple and soap is what we use daily,” said Matlali.

Matlali added: “We like chasing white collar jobs more than being self-employed. And this is a bad culture which needs to be changed.” Matlali attended secondary school at Thetsane High School where he completed COSC, which he passed with a first class before going to NUL where he did a BSg general degree, which is a bridging course, before enrolling for a BSc Tech degree.

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