Ofentse Melato and Tshego Molefi met when they were just young kids. Tshego a former journalist and Ofentse a corporate administrator, decided to quit their jobs and become entrepreneurs. They registered a cleaning services company with the hopes of making a good living.
They weren’t exactly successful with their concept, despite submitting profiles to several shopping centres in the area around Sun City. One day, says Melato, they received a call from Sun Village in a panic. “Their waste management service provider had dropped them.” They needed a refuse company to urgently assist.
And thus Moli & Mela was born five years ago as a waste management company after the pair switched tack. In that time, their staff complement has grown from two to 57, and turnover has increased 1,415%, in no small part thanks to a contract at Sun City that kicked off in July. “We started small and were clueless about how to handle waste, so we started attending workshops to learn about the industry and acquire all the relevant accreditations and certificates to be compliant,” Molefi says.
An intentional start
When the company started with just two staff, Melato’s father helped out by driving the Nissan bakkie and trailer to collect waste. The team’s start at Sun City came when Melato applied for an internship with the company that was managing the resort’s waste at the time.
“We were intentional about the fact that we wanted to win Sun City, so we went about learning as much as possible about the waste situation,” says Melato. After getting their foot in the door by working on landfill reduction, Moli & Mela positioned themselves to bid for the entire deal when it went out to tender.
In May 2022, as a local company we presented our offering, and, as Melato says, went up against large companies and as a small company represented only by two women. “It was crazy competing with 45 big companies!”
“The inclusion and prioritisation of women and youth in our Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) is embedded in our Local Socio-Economic Development Strategy. At Sun City, we are intentional about empowering young women, not only within our organisation, but also through enterprise development and when we map Development Programmes,” says Tebogo Mokgejane, Sun City’s SED Manager.
The ladies, in their 30s, had been servicing several other sites that include shopping centres, mega grocery stores, industrial companies and local mines before bidding at the resort. Their staff complement grew from 10 to 57 in 6 months.
At the recent 40th anniversary Nedbank Golf Challenge, they got to prove their metal, cleaning up waste left behind by more than 59,400 spectators watching the top-level tournament with players from all around the world competing on the internationally famous Gary Player Golf Course.
To cope with the 7,805 tons of waste, about a third of which was recycled, they needed another 80 workers as well as extra vehicles and uniforms, and other equipment. “You can imagine the waste produced over the period and managing 127 staff,” says Molefi of the tournament that ran over four days. “It went very well, and our client, Sun City, was impressed how we managed the project, as it was our first time.”
Next up, they aim to start a commercially viable manufacturing plant where they will use recycled plastics to manufacture plastic products such as bins, bottles, and crates among other items. The project aims to employ another 300 people. Molefi and Melato see this as a way to change the narrative of the waste sector as turning rubbish into something that can be used again, which is not an area into which many companies develop.
Through a relationship with Sun City, Coca Cola has donated a trailer to Moli and Mela which will assist with the waste management efficiency.
While doing this for themselves, they also see their growth as a way to uplift communities and transfer skills.
“You run around like headless chickens; that’s what happens when you run a start-up. You have to fill a lot of positions, like HR and jump into a truck if the drivers are not there. But we wake up happy every morning because we are living a life of purpose,” says Molefi.
“We are proud to have empowered these young ladies further to help grow their business so that they can help contribute to economic growth and job creation,” concludes Mokgejane