When life gives you lemons, make soap – at least this is what Siviwe Piliso believes.
Last year Siviwe, who lives in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, graduated with a Bachelor of Science honours in microbiology at the University of Fort Hare.
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At the height of the pandemic, when she couldn’t find a job, she took charge of her future and became her own boss.
Now the 24-year-old owns a growing soap-making business named BOSS – Beauty Organic Super Soaps.
The young entrepreneur makes three types of products: aloe, lemon and a facial scrub soap.
Siviwe shares her story.
“I graduated in May 2020. Before that I started looking for an internship in microbiology or a post as a laboratory assistant. I applied for jobs all over the country, but I wanted to stay in Dimbaza with my family.
The feedback from companies was often around my lack of work experience. I then applied for jobs in other fields but was told I didn’t have the right qualifications.
To make money, I tried to sell fruit and vegetables, but it wasn’t very lucrative so I let it go. I used R300 profit from that business to start my current business.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve had an acne. I tried to treat it with over-the-counter products, but nothing seemed to work. Last year I started using home remedies like Epsom salts and bicarbonate of soda as a face mask and I’d use lemon water to clear dark spots.
This is how I got the idea to start my soap business.
To make my soap, I use a process called cold saponification. I mix lye, which is the main ingredient in my soap, along with coconut oil. Depending on the product I make, my other ingredients consist of lemon, sea salt, essential oils and aloe.
I have three soaps. The lemon is for removing dark spots; aloe, which contains tree tea soap, is for acne and red rashes; and bath soaps for relaxation. I also make charcoal facial masks for acne and face serums.
Before my business got off the ground, I used to have to mix all the ingredients by hand. It took me all day to make 48 soap bars.
My business has been doing so well that two weeks ago I was able to buy a detergent-mixing machine that enables me to produce soap and other skincare products on a larger scale. Now I can produce a lot more – about 1 000 bars a week.
Since starting my business, I’ve made around 11 000 soap bars and sold 80%. I also have customers in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Of course, I could not have done it alone. I’m very close to my father, Mzimkhul (65), a retired policeman, who helps me make my soap. I jokingly call him my employee but he’s my business partner and allows me to use the garage as my workstation.
My mother, Bulelwa (54) is a schoolteacher and promotes my products at work and on social media. Through their financial investment and some of the money I made, I was able to purchase the machine, which cost around R25 000.
It costs around R12 to produce my soaps. I sell each bar for R20. In a good month I can sell close to 1 000 bars. I buy all my bottles online, create my own designs for labels, then get them printed in town. I also buy bags for my products in town.
Thanks to my machine, I plan to make detergents and paint in the future.
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Because there aren’t a lot of jobs in my area, I want to open a factory so I can create more work. I also plan to do my master’s next year and will continue to apply for jobs.
My dream has always been to invent something – and now I have.”