Innocentia Mamaila’s career has taught her to see change as an opportunity and not as a threat.
With an accounting background and dreams of owning her own business, she completed a bachelor of accounting science in internal auditing at the University of South Africa, followed by a diploma in accounting and business from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
However, like many, Mamaila was driven to reassess her trajectory during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some of her peers lost their jobs during the lockdown and others, who had to drop out of tertiary education due to poverty, were not employed to begin with.
Left searching for what to do next, she read an article about the merits of recycling cooking oil that sparked her interest. After further research, she discovered an industry built on buying, bleaching and reselling used cooking oil and its conversion into biodiesel. It was this discovery that drove her to take action.
Mamaila went on to complete a diploma in biodiesel at the DTN Institute and in June founded INO-Biodiesel, a company that collects used cooking oil and converts it into biodiesel. The company also supplies biodiesel to the construction, farming and mining industries.
The process to get her first product to market was challenging but taught her a lot.
“I learned to believe in myself and accept failure and rejection as a part of the journey,” she says.
Mamaila has found great success with INO-Biodiesel, amassing several awards in a short space of time, including winning the Female Founders Initiative Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She was also recognised by Standard Bank’s Top Women in South African Companies project.
Passionate about making a change in the country, Mamaila is expanding the company’s activities into social outreach programmes in Limpopo, to be followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
The project will partner with women in rural areas to grow agricultural products that can be processed into 100% cooking oil and then sold. They will also collect and recycle used oil to turn it into biodiesel. The project is expected to launch in October.
“The goal is to create a stable, sustainable and economy-friendly environment,” she says.
Mamalia believes entrepreneurship to be a crucial factor in improving the state of the South African economy, and wants to see a change in developmental-phase education to a more grounded and practical learning system.
Based on lessons she learned from her mother, her advice to other entrepreneurs is to collaborate instead of compete, and to stand firm through the challenges.
“My mother has been my greatest inspiration. Especially the way she dealt with my challenges and failures and her approach towards solving problems without ever losing hope,” she says.