More than nine million South Africans are jobless today. Elizabeth Ntoagae and Lerato Lekhetho used to be part of that number, battling frustration as they struggled to find work. A shared entrepreneurial streak led the pair to try one idea after another. But initial attempts fell flat. Until a spark of inspiration flew from the humble braai. They created eco-friendly firelighters – a much-needed product that is not only helping the environment, but empowering the women and the community around them.
Ntoagae and Lekhetho manufacture sustainable briquettes from used cardboard, greywater and sawdust. The components are blended into a pulp, compressed into a cylinder and then left to airdry, creating an efficient substitute for fire starters, particularly in places where additional fuel is expensive or not readily available. “Eco-friendly is affordable for everyone,” Lekhetho says. Recycled materials mean lower costs, as well as providing a benefit to the community. Waste finds new purpose in these briquettes, which reduce the environmental impact of braaiïng.
Ntoagae and Lekhetho’s early failures and eventual success prove that no idea is too small or unimportant when a need is being met. “We choose to make something that people can relate to,” Lekhetho says. The business has encouraged entrepreneurship among her friends and community. “As women, we have to stand together so that we can make a better South Africa,” Ntoagae says. By using what we have, we have the power to change what we don’t.