the beauty of empowerment

 Meet Our Team

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Sonto is a bad ass girl boss. She is currently our awesome studio manager, but years ago Sonto had a successful career as the owner of a beauty salon. With an entire team of skilled beauticians, Sonto ran the most up scale salon in her community.

Unfortunate events took place that led Sonto to leave Johannesburg for a bit of time and take care of her family in the rural village she grew up in. When Sonto came back to Johannesburg her salon was gone.

Sonto has a determined and hardworking spirit that earned her the position of studio manager. Sonto is also the mother to three children ages 14, 12, and 4.

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Meaning "beautiful" in Zulu, Nobuhle is a bright, vibrant and beautiful addition to our team. Nobuhle is wonderful and epitomizes pride. Every time I would review her latest bag, she would high five and we'd shout, "Beautiful!" When I left South Africa, she quietly asked me who would say, "Good job, ladies" at the end of each day. Nobuhle loves her work and takes great pride in every bag she makes.

As a child Nobuhle was responsible for raising her sisters. At this difficult time in her life, Nobuhle learned about love, care and compassion and is now the proud mother of two sons - Giving and Nelson. Giving is 14 years old and next year he will be the FIRST person in his entire family to ever attend high school. Nelson is four and has fun playing on the tire swing at preschool while his mother is at work. Nobuhle dreams of seeing both of her boys thrive in high school and graduate from university. Giving and Nelson have obviously benefited from their mother's hard work and livable wage, but they are also witnessing the importance and transformation of an woman empowered.

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Meet Mathapelo, she is a FIRE CRACKER! Tons of fun and the life of the party. Mathapelo brings a big smile and ALLLL the energy to work every day. She constantly makes us laugh with her jokes and spontaneous dance moves. It amazes me that Mathapelo comes to work so energized each day considering that she has four children, ages 4, 6, 8, and 12.

In addition to being our office extrovert, Mathapelo is crazy smart. Each pay day I explain to the women how much they earned and remind them of their payment structure. Mathapelo listens closely and re explains in Tswana, helping everyone else to understand and taking their questions. She dreams of studying finance in University, and we are hoping to get her there. Mathapelo reminds me a famous quote from Half the Sky, "talent is universal, opportunity is not." By brining opportunity to women like Mathapelo, we are starting to see real change take place in her community.

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Naledi means "star" in Sesotho. Naledi has a soul that glows from within and radiates out. Naledi grew up in the community we work in, as a child she even attended the charity that her children attend today. On her first day at neela, I asked Naledi what she was looking forward to at her job. She beamed at me and whispered "I want to change my life." It is a privilege to know Naledi, and watch her defeat the cycle of poverty and provide a better life for her children. Naledi has her hands full as a single mother of three children ages 2, 4 and 6. Naledi is sweet and soft spoken but full of wisdom and determination to work hard and improve her young family's life.

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Hi, I’m Bella. After a volunteer trip to South Africa at 18 I was led to come back and start a handbag company that empowered women.

After struggling with depression for a year and a half in college, I packed my bags and set out to do something that felt meaningful.

I started neela with four incredible and inspiring women and have been on a wonderful journey since meeting them. One filled with fulfillment and purpose.

I am so grateful for neela and the community it brings. I am thankful everyday that I get to help empower these women in South Africa while showing our shopper the power she has to make a difference.