Mosebetsi finds meaning in heated jackets


. . . CFI support bears fruit

Mathato Seboka

MASERU – Two innovative Leribe youth have introduced thermal heating apparel that utilises power banks to provide eight hours of targeted-customised warmth. Iconics Pty Ltd. is a privately owned company consisting of two distinct entities: Iconics Events, which provides entertainment services such as PA systems and event hosting for both organisations and individuals, and Iconics Clothing, which specialises in the production of protective apparel for various industries and sectors.

Established in 2016 by Mosebetsi Rapitso, 34, and Tumo Mahapa, 33, Iconics Pty Ltd. was founded with the goal of breaking free from the limited job opportunities in Lesotho. Rapitso shares: “Motivated by my desire to break free from a challenging economic background, I viewed entrepreneurship as a transformative path out of poverty. Tired after years of job hunting after completing school, I found purpose in my name, ‘Mosebetsi,’ which simply means work. This realisation fuelled my commitment to creating opportunities, making it a life mission.”

The idea for Iconics initially focused on events and PR management in 2016. However, a pivotal shift occurred in 2020 when the impact of COVID-19 led them to introduce Iconic Clothing, initially specialising in protective wear. Rapitso recalls: “A unique turning point happened during an incident in the highlands of Mokhotlong. Stranded in freezing weather, the idea struck: why not design jackets with a heating mechanism? “This inspiration led to the development of Iconics electric jackets, innovative and fashionable outerwear utilising power banks to provide eight hours of targeted, customised warmth. We launched these particular jackets late last year, marking the first winter since their introduction.”

Presently, Iconics Pty Ltd. employs five workers and is on the verge of expansion, anticipating the hiring of an additional six employees. The Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI) project has played a vital role in supporting their growth, facilitated through The Entrepreneurs Network (TEN), where they are currently undergoing incubation.

Rapitso highlights their challenges, stating: “Our most significant challenge has been securing funding for expansion over the past seven years. We are currently being incubated by TEN under the CAFI programme, which will capacitate our business to grow through funding. In past years, we won the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) BPC competition, which gave us funding of M100,000 to scale up. We also became the second runner-up in the Prime Minister’s youth empowerment initiative, Sebabatso.”

Iconics Pty Ltd’s products have gained international exposure with assistance from the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) in market linkages, enabling them to attend events such as the Intra Africa Trade Affair in Cairo, Egypt, and the Youth Konnect event in Nairobi, Kenya, through Sebabatso.

Mahapa, the co-owner of Iconics Pty Ltd., says they initially raised capital from personal savings to start the business. “We not only produce jackets but also have other products like medical uniforms, lab coats, corporate wear, and other protective gear. We chose e-jackets due to the declining demand for other products after the COVID-19 era, as business was thriving in protective wear during those days. To keep the business alive, we had to be innovative and come up with a unique product to penetrate the markets.”

Mahapa explains that their company has rented space in Mankoaneng, Hlotse in the Leribe district, providing them with a home-ground advantage as a new and emerging company. Additionally, they have another working space at the Tradorette Complex in Maseru. “We purchase some of our inputs locally and import materials from China and South Africa. Our most expensive raw materials are heating elements for electric jacket products due to currency exchange and shipping.”

Mahapa emphasises the vision of seeing the company grow into a multi-million-dollar entity locally and internationally, creating jobs for Basotho and worldwide. He states: “For now, we still produce five to 10 e-jackets a month since most people are not yet used to the idea of heated apparel. We have clients even if it is not winter in Lesotho. We get clients from other countries where, seasonally, it is winter for them.”

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