Ever met a woman who loves sheets more than clothes? Well, meet Maliti Kelefetswe, a budding Hartbeespoort businesswoman who is selling beautiful luxury bedding that promises sweet dreams. However, this successful enterprise’s aim is not to make money, its sole purpose is to fund a project to educate young people about living meaningful lives.
Maliti established an NGO, aptly named Character Matters, to educate young people in the importance of building a life on more than financial aspirations.
“Values have become warped in modern society. Children grow up being taught that life is about getting a good job, living in a smart house, and driving an expensive car. Lives are built on pillars of superficial, material things instead of character and values that will make for a stronger and more meaningful life. Character Matters has the aim to teach young people to be kind, responsible, to be good citizens, have moral values to base decisions on. Money is not the main ingredient for a happy, meaningful life and without character it will not be a fulfilling life.”
Maliti, who has a Masters degree in Development studies and worked on development projects for organisations such as the Umvula Trust, the Urban Sector Network (USN) and the South African department of monitoring and evaluation, ditched the corporate world 11 years ago, first to become a fulltime mother to three children and then to start her own business in order to live her passion – people.
“I love people and since I was a child, I knew I would one day work with people. I initially planned to become a social worker but after my studies, I joined the Umvula Trust to do upliftment projects in rural areas. That continued during my career at USN and with the government. After being a fulltime mom for a couple of years, I realised I had to set out on my own to do what I was meant to do on this earth, to help people live meaningful lives by getting in touch with core values that make us all better people,” she says.
“The only way to do this was by starting a business in order to fund my dream. Seven years ago I met a man who sold imported clothes from the boot of his car. This intrigued me and after talking to him, it set me thinking. Clothes were not my thing, but I loved beautiful bedding. I impulsively booked a flight to China and after investigating the possibilities, I was hooked. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
“Life is not about money, the car you drive and the house you live in, but unfortunately this is what our children is taught today. There has to be a shift, a way to teach them that character matters, that whatever you do in life is what you are building. It will determine what your life will be like and the trail you leave behind.”
She only had R12 000 to spend on linen, but that R12 000 was the start of a new life and career. “I started selling to people from my home and learnt a few hard lessons and suffered a few hard losses as well. One gets to a stage where you have to decide whether you are going to quit or make a real go of it. I decided to go online. And here I am!”
She is slowly starting to realise the initial aim of the business. She is giving talks at churches and meetings and has also initiated a project to give unemployed youth, and older people, art classes in order to create employment.
Yes, she is a talented artist as well. She loves painting and part of her office is set up with her canvasses and art supplies. “And I love teaching people how to paint. It is uplifting and while I teach them, I talk to them about the opportunities to earn a living but in the end, I can only give them the tools. I tell them what they do with them will matter, to remember that with everything we do, we are building the house which we will live in in the future. They have a choice and it is up to them to make it meaningful or not. You can make money, but what did you achieve? It is all about the contribution you make. Everyone leaves a trail behind, leave a positive one.”
Maliti and husband Segomotso, share these values and instill them in their three children, Thabo (12), Lebo (10) and Lesedi (8). “I tell them they are building their lives and whatever they decide is what they are building. I live by the philosophy of Michael Josephson, a former law professor and speaker and lecturer on ethics: What will matter – Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident or because of circumstances but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters!”