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The business of soap



ROMA – AFTER two years of intensive studies, three National University of Lesotho (NUL) Chemical Technology graduates, Lesia Matlali, Setlhare Jane and ’Marethabile Jane, have developed a low cost high quality natural soap. The moringa soap, dubbed Mohalalitoe, taking from an ancient flower next to the hearts of many Basotho — and the soap is ready for sale upon ordering.
But, look! This is how you fit in — these folks are ready to teach you how to make your own customised soap in the next few days in Maseru!
They believe that the more people can make soap in Lesotho, the merrier.  Why, on earth, should we import tons of low quality soap from abroad, while we have the secrets of making high quality soap right here at home? Well, Mohalalitoe is not your normal soap.

Here is why. It is brewed and chiselled carefully with both your skin and your pocket in mind, that’s why it took so long to develop — in case you were wondering!
Talking about your “skin and pocket,” you will note one thing about your average soap-maker. You see, your average soap-maker has not learned the secret of balancing the two (skin and pocket).
Mind you! The art of soap-making has been known since the good old days. Of course balancing the “skin and pocket” is no picnic.

“So we understand the predicament faced by average soap-makers!” Lesia says. Here is the catch: good natural soaps for your skin are too expensive. “But cheaper soaps have poor properties for your skin,” Sethlare says. However, you, the honorable consumer, want neither of the two alternatives—it is a catch 22 situation.
Rather, here’s what you want. Good quality! At low cost!

That is where Mohalalitoe jumps in, and that is what it promises. Now, let Lesia relates how the journey to NUL’s Mohalalitoe natural soap unfolded: “We first started by developing a model soap then we tailor-made Mohalalitoe specifically for the NUL.” “The beauty of this basic model soap,” he says, “is that once you have it, you can always adapt it to make your own soap version.”
Coming up with the basic model soap was the tricky part. To understand why, you need to know a thing or two about soap itself.

You see, whether you use soap or not is not in question. What is in question is, which soap do you use? Most likely, you use normal chemically-laden glycerin-starved soap (let’s whisper this one, some fanatics say that is not soap at all, they say if it were food, it would be called junk food—but don’t say we told you this).

Okay…., for that look on your face, you may decide not to take our word for it, listen to one such enthusiast, Cheryl McCoy, he will put it better.
“The next time you walk down the soap aisle at your favorite store enjoying the fresh, clean scents and the bright colorful packaging, pay attention.”
“Look at the labels. The vast majority of the products on the shelf don’t say ‘soap’ on their labels. They might be called beauty bars, moisturizing bars, or body bars, but not soap. That’s because these bars aren’t actually soap and can’t legally claim to be, they’re detergents.” Let him finish please!

“The manufacturers have removed most of the ‘good’ stuff that occurs in the soap-making process, and replaced it with synthetic lathering agents and harsh chemicals.”
We told you so, didn’t we? Now you heard it right from the horse’s mouth! Did you hear how they cater for those deficiencies? They provide very good packaging!

Now, listen to Matlali’s insightful view on that one. “In the area of the natural, it is the product, not how it is packaged, that matters,” he says.
“In fact, when we talk the natural, it is not about how much packaging you can get and how fancy it can be. Quite the opposite,” he says.
“It is about how less of the packaging you can have because, really, you don’t hide the genuine behind the fancy, you expose it.”
But anyone schooled in this area will tell you this: there are potholes with the natural route. Natural soap products are expensive—ask those who have tried them.

“When we started our research at the NUL,” Setlhare says, “we were taken aback by the cost of oils used to make natural soap. In fact that factor alone was an immediate turn off.”
So these young folks, surveyed locally available oils, which are available in abundance, and, in a painstaking process, worked on producing natural soap recipes of high quality and low cost, hence Mohalalitoe.

Own Correspondent

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