Lesego Serolong Holzapfel is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of Bokamoso Impact Investments and Raise the Children International. She is the co-host, along with Dr Michael Mol, of this year’s 7th annual In Good Company conference. We took a moment to chat with her around Women’s Month, and the work that she does, in the lead up to this event.
What are you most looking forward to about the In Good Company conference?
I think the recent events in our country have uncovered a lot of things that need to be addressed. We can no longer just sit here and continue as normal. We need to find solutions that will bring about change in our country. So, I look forward to people exploring practical solutions and committing to doing something together.
What does Women’s month symbolise for you?
For me, Women’s Month symbolises strength. I am reminded of the women that I’ve been blessed to be around and who have impacted me in positive ways or played significant roles in my life – such as my high school teachers that were there for me, especially when my own mother passed away. I also think about my own mother who worked so hard, who was so resilient and taught us a lot about caring for people and the meaning of generosity.
I also think about mentors who played such an important role in my life, like the late Mama Ruth Mompati. I think about the sacrifices that she made as a freedom fighter and the many stories that she would share with me about her time in Russia, and Tanzania and the sacrifices that she had to make in not being able to be with her children for more than 20 years.
I have learnt so much from those women, and I draw so much wisdom from the decisions and sacrifices they made to make our country better or to contribute to what we have today.
Why is it so important to celebrate the women of South Africa?
I think about the mothers waking up at 2 or 3 am preparing to sell food at taxi ranks or on the side of the road. Women that make sure that the children don’t go to bed hungry, women that sacrifice so much to ensure that their children have a bright future. These are our unsung heroes.
I think a month is not even enough to celebrate the resilience of a lot of women and the role they play in raising future generations.
Within South Africa’s economy there are so many impediments to social and economic progress. What problems does your company specifically address or work to improve?
I currently run Bokamoso Foods, a food processing and packaging company based in the Northwest province. Last year we made a decision to move our manufacturing factory from Gauteng to Taung village in the North West Province, as it has always been our vision to move opportunities closer to where people live. It means a lot to us that our employees are from the local village and that some are now able to walk to work. This addresses some of the issues that low-income communities face when it comes to not having enough money because of transportation or opportunities being far from their homes.
Bokamoso Impact Investment is a part of the Bokamoso Foods family as well. We do consulting work focused on agriculture and entrepreneur development and we provide advisory services to the private and public sector. Our clients include The Jobs Fund and Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme.
I feel so blessed because it’s such an opportunity to connect with people and help transform their lives, help transform their businesses and help them contribute to the growth of our economy.
You also co-founded an organisation with your husband called Raise the Children International. Tell us more about that.
Being an orphan myself, I have always had a deep desire to give back to the community that raised me. “Raise the Children International” is an NPO that myself and my husband, Neil, founded 11 years ago. We identify orphans from deep remote, rural areas of South Africa and place them in high-performing private schools around the country. From the seventh grade, going into eighth grade, we pair them up with professional mentors and support them all the way up to grade 12 and then into university.
We also partner with different companies in the private sector that provide internship opportunities for our kids. Currently we have more than 30 young people that are in tertiary education, schools, and universities including Wits, Tukkies and Rhodes.
What change would you like to see in South Africa?
South Africa is so full of potential – full of opportunities. My vision is to see all of us working together, collaborating and coming up with efforts that would eradicate poverty, and develop policies that would better serve poor communities and improve our education.
At this point, there is no one-sided solution to where we are in our country. I believe collaborative efforts from all sectors would help to take South Africa where it needs to be.
Book for the In Good Company conference here.