Mashile is a rare breed in the South African business landscape – a young, female industrialist. The 30 year-old has managed to carve a niche in a highly competitive manufacturing sector by pouncing on a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity, working hard and believing in herself. Today, Mashile runs a factory in Selby, Jo’burg.

Her company, Reapso SA, which she founded in 2012 at the age of 25 after quitting her advertising job, produces workwear for different sectors such as construction, hospitality, the healthcare industry, school wear and corporate clothing. It also offers turnkey solutions, producing bespoke tailored garments according to clients’ specifications.

It’s been a long journey for this dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneur who holds her mother in high regard for being a pillar of support. “My mother has always encouraged me to work hard at becoming independent, from encouraging me to start my first business at age 10, selling my home-made keyrings with a friend at KTV market days, to supplying blankets with flags printed on them for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, which snowballed into more orders after the tournament ended,” says Mashile.

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Running the business hasn’t been smooth sailing. “In the beginning, the factory didn’t have sufficient resources, which made it extremely difficult to work towards the bigger goal,” she says. But Mashile stuck it out, continuously learning more about her sector. A year into running her factory, she secured a contract to supply chefwear to Makros nationwide through the Massmart Supplier Development Programme. “I’m forever grateful for this opportunity and that my prayers were answered, but you have to use that helping hand smartly and work hard to get to the next level. For me, this is only the beginning,” she says.

Recently, Reapso SA scooped the Best Small Supplier award at the inaugural Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards. The awards recognise corporates that make a significant impact in transforming the business sector through supporting smaller companies. Her company was rewarded for excellence and for selflessly working with other smaller entities in the value chain, while still growing itself.

“The award reaffirms that I’m on the right track and comes with a lot of credibility that opens all the right doors on a bigger scale,” says Mashile, who believes there’s plenty of room for other entrepreneurs to become industrialists, which is critical in growing the country’s economy.

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