Adv. Relebohile Sehapi is a lawyer from Lesotho. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the National University of Lesotho and a Master of Science in International Trade Policy and Trade Law from Lund University. She currently works for the High Court of Lesotho where she has held a number of positions and is now employed as the Assistant Registrar. Moreover, she is a Coordinator for the Lesotho Legal Information Institute, a project of the Judiciary that promotes the rule of law by providing free access to legal information in Lesotho. She has worked as a part-time lecturer at the National University of Lesotho and the Centre for Accounting Studies. Adv. is an alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), having been selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2016. She is also Founder and Managing Director of a company called Lebo Beauty & Gifting (Pty) Ltd, trading as LeboNaturals; to manufacture natural beauty cosmetics, established in 2018.
The entrepreneur in this exclusive interview with Sunday Oyinloye, Publisher Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable speaks about the uniqueness of LeboNaturals and what young Africans should do to make their dreams come true
You are a successful lawyer by any standard, why did you go into manufacturing of natural beauty cosmetics?
I’m a creative at heart and a “do-it-yourself” person; so I guess I’m naturally a curious person. I attempt to do things myself before I can conclude that I need help and I love bringing ideas in my head to life. I tend to dabble into a bit of everything, from baking to my current hobby of refurbishing old furniture. While my close friends and family always encourage me to monetize my skills, I had never fancied myself as an entrepreneur. Interestingly, I was surrounded by entrepreneurs and that’s where my motivation came from. So I prayed to God for a business idea and I specifically asked for something that not many people in my country were doing. I had earlier started reading about natural and organic cosmetics and used to copy recipes online just to satisfy my creative bug. So out of all the hobbies I was into, producing natural cosmetics was the answer.
How was it at the beginning and how are people receiving your products now?
It was very difficult. Firstly I started the business with no capital and for the most part, I had no idea what I was doing save for what I read online. But the hardest part was dealing with people’s prejudices. There were some people who were so condescending because I didn’t have a science background, then there are those who won’t buy simply because it’s you, it is said that a prophet is not honored in his hometown. I was however encouraged by those who would say “wow, you (a lawyer) made this?” I have not been aggressive about pushing my products into the market but the people who know them love and use them. My biggest encouragement comes from loyal customers, the people who keep coming back for the same product and the people who are now loyal to the brand, who will not buy a product from a competing brand when they can’t find LeboNaturals at the shop but would rather call me and ask me where or when they can get it.
What makes LeboNaturals different from other products in the market?
From the get-go, I wanted the company to produce natural and/or organic cosmetics, engage in fair trade practices and use sustainable and earth-friendly packaging where possible. The brand is about using botanical ingredients that deliver on their promises to create super clean products without resorting to any harmful chemicals. It is also about earth consciousness and being mindful of our planet. Finally, while we aim for beautiful healthy skin, we are more concerned about the general health of the body by being mindful of what ingredients are applied on the skin.
Would you want to speak on the range of LeboNaturals?
LeboNaturals produces bath, body and hair natural cosmetics. We also provide accessories made from natural and earth friendly sources. Our products are handmade and deliberately in small quantities. They are free harmful synthetics, sulphates, mineral oil and fillers.
How difficult or otherwise is it for the youth to start a small scale business in Lesotho?
It is difficult especially for businesses that require substantial capital as there is still a problem accessing finance. There is also an issue of lack of local suppliers for various inputs and a lot of companies rely on imported goods. I will say, however, that despite the many challenges young people face in starting a business, there is an entrepreneurial spirit on the rise. Young people are going into business, fulfilling their dreams and it is beautiful to watch.
What advice do you have for other Africans who might want to go into your line of business?
Follow your heart. I know it is cliché but I have learned that if you have a vision, only you can fulfil it. Invest in knowledge, go back to school if you must; learn about running this type of business and do not forget there is always something to learn from your competitors.
Do you foresee a time where your products will be found in the leading stores across the globe?
That is the dream. As I mentioned, this started as a hobby but the more I work and learn the more the vision becomes clearer. Plans are underway to align our products with global cosmetic compliance so that we are able to reach the global market.
What are you doing to give back to the community?
We are currently looking into CSI we can support, obviously it will be something that aligns with our brand.
Does your products have anything to do with your looks?
Hahahahaha . Skincare is really healthcare, and the skin is the largest organ of the body and it requires the right nourishment. Moreover, a healthy skin boosts confidence and we all need to feel good about ourselves. It is not about looks and beauty is somewhat subjective, it is just about loving the skin you are in.