Lerato Mahlaela shares journey of her small businesses

Young entreprenuer Lerato Mahlaela defied all odds when she decided to fight her way through the mud and started her small businesses which have now created employment. Picture: Supplied

Young entreprenuer Lerato Mahlaela defied all odds when she decided to fight her way through the mud and started her small businesses which have now created employment. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 14, 2024


FORCED into the unemployment pool and afraid to give in to poverty, Lerato Mahlaela defied all the odds when she decided to fight her way through and start her small businesses, which have now created additional employment.

Born in 1991 in a rural village, Zebediela, in Limpopo, Mahlaela, after completing her matric, pursued her studies at Unisa where she obtained a Business Informatics degree, a certificate in cybersecurity, and is now completing her final Honours in Business Informatics year.

With all her accolades, including a business analyst certificate and several Microsoft certificates, like many other young unemployed graduates in South Africa, she could not let her certificates collect dust while waiting for her dream job.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Mahlaela shared her journey, talking about how she started two of her two small companies, Da Mlira Technologies and Lepakeng Bakery.

“My journey to venturing into business started after I graduated with my Business Informatics degree that I acquired from Unisa in 2018. After I had stayed without a stable job, I had to do odd jobs to survive as I could not secure a permanent, full-time job. I was forced to work as a fixed-term contract worker before I lost that job and fell into the unemployed group. That was when I realised that I needed to take charge of my life and create a job for myself.

“I then started researching on opening a technology company and where the gap in the technology industry was. I dedicated 24 months to doing research, attending networking gatherings, asking questions, and joining entrepreneur groups to get advice, guidance, and equip myself.”

In 2021 she was made up her mind and decided to venture into Educational Technology to bridge the gap between technology and basic education learners, by providing them with technology skills.

“When I formally registered my company in November 2021, I was working as an admin assistant, and I had to self-fund the basic costs of starting the company. So, 2022 was a year of building the company internally and taking the company from an idea to the prototype stage while aligning it with the STEM standards of education in South Africa and across the world,” Mahlaela said.

“I resigned from my admin job in December 2022 to fully focus on Da Mlira Technologies as the founder and work on the business. In 2023, I moved to our MVP stage and pilot to try and test.

“In 2024, we are going into a full pilot where schools across the country and Africa at large are welcome to try to test these technology tools that they can implement in their schools to better their STEM education. The purpose is to equip them with essential skills, cultivate a passion for technology, and prepare them for a future that increasingly relies on digital literacy and STEM expertise while making them relevant in the future job market.”

Asked about the overall services rendered by Da Mlira Technologies, she said it was an educational technology company revolutionising education in South Africa.

“We teach learners from Grade R to Grade 12 Virtual Reality, AI and Robotics and Coding, upskilling the teacher’s technology skills and giving parents a basic understanding of technology tools. We have also created three permanent jobs for young people and formulated partnerships and collaboration. The information is available on our website (www.damlira.co.za).”

On her other business, Lepakeng Bakery, she indicated that it was created in December 2023.

“As a bakery in the heart of Tembisa, we make freshly baked bread, rolls, scones, cakes, and anything baking and blissful. I am currently embarking on a journey of opening a big bakery in Tembisa township … this is all fuelled by my passion for bringing a delightful culinary experience to the heart of the community,” said Mahlaela.

“The purpose is to offer a delicious haven for locals, where the aroma of freshly baked goods becomes a symbol of comfort and joy. Through this venture, we aim to contribute to the economic development of Tembisa by creating job opportunities and supporting local suppliers.”

Explaining her commitment to the community, she said she wanted to “provide high-quality, affordable baked goods that reflect the diverse tastes and preferences of the township”.

“By offering a range of delicious treats, from traditional favourites to innovative creations, we aspire to become a staple in the daily lives of Tembisa residents. This bakery is more than a business… it's a celebration of local flavours, a hub of warmth, and a catalyst for positive change in the heart of the community.”

Lepakeng Bakery is located in the heart of Tembisa along Gaborone Street, Ehlanzeni section. Mahlaela said her bakery was open 7 days a week from 6am to 6pm and was always ready to serve freshly baked products with a smile.

“Lepakeng has created permanent jobs for two young people, and we are looking into adding more as we grow. We will foster partnerships with other township services that are relevant to us like deliveries, suppliers, and Kota shops.”

On the performance of the bakery, she said her businesses were still small, but she expressed her wish to attract more customers and get funding in order to grow her businesses.