Kasi Business | Strikes at mines led Mabowe to new life

Boitumelo Mabowe, owner of Serene Soaps and Trading, which produces industrial soaps and detergents.
Boitumelo Mabowe, owner of Serene Soaps and Trading, which produces industrial soaps and detergents.

Boitumelo Mabowe had no desire to become an entrepreneur until four years ago when strikes at Impala's Lonmin platinum mine in Rustenburg, North West, became protracted.

Working as an underground supervisor at the trouble-torn Marikana platinum belt, Mabowe resolved to resign early last year to establish her business entity - Serene Soaps and Trading.

She specialises in the manufacturing of household and industrial soaps and detergents.

"The never-ending and protracted strikes and industrial action were the main reason for me to quit. I decided I could no longer go underground," says Mabowe.

"I was definitely not in control of my destiny. Our lives were determined by other people. It was by sheer luck too that I met a friend who introduced me to the SAB Kickstart programme."

The programme is meant to enhance and uplift struggling entrepreneurs by equipping them with skills to boost their knowledge on how to run a start-up.

"Working in the mining industry is difficult, even for men, but it becomes double if you are a woman. Managing people is difficult, especially men. In January last year I tendered my resignation.

"At first I didn't know what to do. The idea of manufacturing industrial soaps was sparked by witnessing how difficult it was for the miners to wash their hands with soaps provided by the mine. The soaps were not strong enough.

"Drillers and artisans were not happy with the soaps provided, it was harsh to the skin. I did my research on how to remove greases with heavy-duty soaps that are gentle to the skin.

"Not long thereafter I came up with my formula. I invested my savings in the business and started small with household liquid soaps and detergents."

Her business prowess was enhanced when she was accepted to SAB Lerumo, a supplier development programme for black women-owned businesses aimed at opening up access to markets.

"Before Lerumo I was selling on a small scale, mainly to private and household clients. Today I can proudly say that I supply big firms dealing with heavy-duty trucks. They use my products to clean engines and remove grease."

Mabowe, 35, was born in Phokeng, Rustenburg, and she is a mother to onedaughter. Her business has grown to the extent that she now creates jobs. She has four workers under her employ in less than a year of being in business.

"I needed support systems. I have two full-time and two part-time workers as well as a partner [for] marketing purposes.

"I'm not a talkative person, so I enlisted the services of Mpho Malindi, a business partner with marketing expertise to speak on behalf of Serene Soaps and Trading."

The expansion of the business saw Mabowe leasing a workshop at Zinniaville industrial area in Rustenburg, where the manufacturing takes place.

Mabowe purchases her soap containers from a firm in Midrand, north of Joburg, and the soap chemicals from Curechem in Pretoria.

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