When Limpopo-born Thabang Monyepao (26) abandoned a future career in aircraft engineering in 2018 to start a company that manufactures toilet paper, he knew he had to make it work.
At the time, he was doing an internship for his aircraft engineering qualification.
“In 2018, during my tertiary studies, I started thinking about possible manufacturing businesses. After much research, I decided on tissue manufacturing.” And so Delight Softies was born.
Monyepao registered the business and started a small-scale production line. In 2019, he received a R50 000 business grant from the National Youth Development Agency and that enabled him to purchase raw materials to produce more stock.
“The money enabled us to increase production and in so doing, produce more stock. By having more stock, we were then able to approach more clients. The funds really boosted our business.”
It was through the support of the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) that Monyepao was also able to get marketing material. In addition, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition enabled him to participate in the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) that took place in Durban last November.
“Being an exhibitor at the IATF and interacting with businesspeople from across the continent opened my eyes to the prospect of a massive market, not just locally but in the rest of Africa.”
At present, Monyepao employs seven women and three men. Both single and double-ply toilet paper are manufactured at his Polokwane plant.
He says that even though the entrepreneurship journey is not easy, it is important for South Africans to be part of it. “Manufacturing is a space that we lack skills in. Many manufacturing plants are not locally owned; the narrative should change so that we can be role players in the economy.”
He says his plans include having his own mill and increasing capacity. “I want to own a mill that manufactures pulp and jumbo rolls from scratch. Presently, we buy huge chunks of uncut toilet paper, which we then cut and package to sell.”