- Oarabile Mashigo started a blanket company to fund his law studies following rejection by NSFAS.
- The company provides three other young people with an income.
- Mashigo received a bursary from a private company following his call for financial support.
Twenty-two-year-old Oarabile Mashigo's Cozii blankets keep the chills at bay while giving back to the community of Pretoria West.
He founded Cozii Lifestyle, a youth-led business that makes fleece blankets, to raise funds to continue his studies after rejection by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
The company employs three youths and is helping to alleviate unemployment in the area.
Mashigo graduated with a BA law degree from the University of Pretoria at the start of 2021 and had his heart set on a post-graduate law qualification. But then came the news that NSFAS was experiencing a funding crisis and would not fund his studies.
Mashigo, who was involved in student politics on campus and fought against issues like financial exclusion, was suddenly left without funding.
"I personally felt I was fighting these issues, so there was a sense of betrayal, sadness and [feeling] dejected," he told News24.
"I dropped out one week before the new academic year began in 2021. I was staring at the roof, thinking, 'What exactly am I going to do? I don't have another plan'," Mashigo said.
During this period, a conversation with his former res father, David Raats, about making blankets came to mind. When he received no responses from the jobs he applied for, Mashigo approached Raats.
"I decided to take a risk, learnt how to make blankets, and with one pair of scissors and R250, we went to being able to sell over 60 blankets during this time that we've been operating," he said.
The blankets are handmade, using a no-sew technique, which involves tying fleece material around the edges.
"The cool thing about these blankets is that they are not only warm but portable so that you can stay warm on the go," Mashigo said.
Benefitting the community
The traction and attention his business has received has helped him to give back to the community and alleviate the financial burden of three other young people who work for him.
And when large orders are placed, he employs even more people.
"We use these efforts to make as many blankets as we can and to ship them to as many families who need love."
During winter, Mashigo also partnered with the non-profit organisation Feed A Homeless Homie and donated more than 50 blankets to homeless people living in Pretoria and Johannesburg. "This is just our small way of contributing back and trying to make life better," he said.
The future is Cozii
Mashigo said he would love to see Cozii Lifestyle grow into an African homeware and furniture outlet competing with other retailers in the market. He added that although times in the country are tough, with a bleak unemployment rate, his business has shown him that South Africans are willing to create change for themselves and others.
Mashigo has no regrets about the way things have panned out.
"At the end of the day, you have to be able to take whatever is happening and make something for yourself because if you don't go through those things, who will?"
He was currently continuing his legal studies at the University of Pretoria after a private company noticed his business efforts and awarded him a bursary.
"One of my biggest aspirations right now is to be a part of the junior prosecutors' programme at the National Prosecuting Authority or to end up at a firm like Webber Wentzel. But, whatever happens, I want to be able to contribute my time to building South Africa," he said.
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