The realisation that many rural girls miss school during their menstrual period led Nontokozo Keswa (37) to leave her job and start a sanitary pad company.
Born in Ladysmith, Keswa holds an accounting degree from the University of the Free State and has worked as a business studies lecturer, a budget accountant, assistant director for budgets, deputy manager for budgets and finance manager in various government spheres.
“I left formal employment in 2013 to start my company, LaKeswa, which supplies sanitary pads that are currently available in regular size for normal to medium flow and maxi for heavy flow,” she says.
“In 2013, I read about young girls missing school because they couldn’t afford sanitary pads. It pained me to learn that they were using newspapers and old cloths as sanitary pads. Some of the girls were forced to date older men so that they could afford toiletries and basic needs.
“I took a decision to do something to turn the situation around as much as I could,” she explains.
Initially, Keswa wanted to have her own manufacturing company but due to financial constraints, she opted to contract the services of a local factory that is SABS approved and black female-owned to manufacture and package the LaKeswa brand.
“At the moment, we supply as and when we get orders. Our products are currently available at Macksons stores in Ladysmith. We are in talks with other retailers to list with them. We also courier to customers that are outside of Ladysmith. We’re also in the process of making our pads available through online platforms, like Proudly South African’s www.rsamade.co.za,” she says.
The company also supplies a menstrual pain relief gel, which is currently only available through direct order from LaKeswa.
Keswa says she is proud to have been able to donate pads to girls in need over the years, in and around Ladysmith, those donations were sourced from other manufactures.
She believes no business is too small to help out in its community because every bit helps.
“A positive that came with the national coronavirus lockdown was the support we received from government departments like the Department of Small Business Development, which has been assisting us in supplying wholesalers, supermarkets and spaza shops,” she says.
The business has created four jobs so far and is in the process of recruiting its second set of interns from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, through its Itukise Internship Programme.
Contact LaKeswa on email firstname.lastname@example.org or at 061 527 5445.