WATCH | Ubuntu in action: Jobless man starts candle business during lockdown with help of Good Samaritan

  • Mozambican, Nelson Mapande, who is based in Cape Town, had no job prospects when the national lockdown came into effect.
  • He reached out to his contacts to ask for help after depleting his savings.
  • Antonella Stromberg, an acquaintance he'd met during a tour guide course he undertook just before the lockdown, offered her assistance and together, they founded the Candle Collective.

Mozambican-born Nelson Mapande was unemployed when the Covid-19 lockdown started in March. With little hope for any future job prospects, and as his savings dried up, he was forced to reach out for help.

One of the people the 35 year-old contacted, Antonella Stromberg, was an acquaintance he'd met during a tour guide course he completed just before the lockdown started.

"I completed my last exam on 9 March and lockdown came on the 26th of March... things became difficult. I even thought of going back home but then I told myself it wasn't a solution for me," he told News24.

According to Mapande, he and Stromberg sat a few meters apart in the classroom and only greeted each other on occasion, but when he contacted her she replied "just like that".

He said: 

That's when I saw that if the whole world had people helping each other, the world would be a better place to live in.

Stromberg said she'd started making candles at home because of loadshedding. She also couldn't find any well-priced candles that were made locally.

"One night I was making them and I was like flip, Nelson could maybe make candles instead of getting meal vouchers... so let's do this and that's when we started making them," she said.

WATCH | Stitch by stitch: How a local woman kept her textile business afloat during lockdown

Stromberg reached out to her network in Noordhoek and they received donations of old candles that she would then take to Mapande in Strand. He melted down the old candles and moulded them into new ones which Stromberg then sold.

Then, suddenly, Stromberg struggled to get hold of him.

handmade candles, Cape Town
Nelson Mapande and Antonella Stromberg, co-founders of the Candle Collective in Cape Town.

"All of a sudden he disappeared and then he contacted me via Facebook to tell me his phone had been stolen. So I decided, right, I'm coming to pick you up," she said.

Mapande said he didn't feel safe living in a South African location as a Mozambique foreign national and moved into the spare room in Stromberg's home in Noordhoek where he now has a workshop in the garage.

The pair set up a small business called the Candle Collective. They receive orders via their Facebook page and sell their candles at local markets in Cape Town.

Mapande said he hoped to be the next "Jo Malone" and that the Candle Collective would grow and be known as a "very unique" brand.

"The response of the people out there, it's overwhelming. I'm not talking colour, I'm not talking race, I'm not talking anything as such but the spirit of ubuntu is still working," he said.

handmade candles, Candle Collective, Cape Town.
A box of candles ready for the market. They are made by the Candle Collective, a small business started by Nelson Mapande and Antonella Stromberg during lockdown in Cape Town.

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