Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For turning trash into an eco-friendly fashion statement

Clothing does more than cover bodies. It can send a message, show allegiance, instill confidence—and, for those wearing Apara fashions, make a dent in the global plastic pollution problem. All activewear designed and produced by Apara is made from recycled plastic bottles that might otherwise clog landfills or threaten marine life in the ocean.

When Ayanda More launched her company, Apara seemed like the perfect name. The word means “dress up” in Tswana, “protect” in Romanian, “intelligence” in Hindi and “abundance” in Spanish. And, just like the multifaceted word she picked, More has since stretched the boundaries of her company’s purpose. 

Drawing on her quiver of entrepreneurial, engineering and management skills, More is also taking aim at poverty in South Africa by cultivating the next generation of innovative, social-minded leaders. The Apara Global Academy, launched in April 2020 for those ages 14-25, offers digital courses aimed at boosting development, leadership and personal growth. The Apara Global Foundation, meanwhile, provides school clothing for disadvantaged children. 

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We talked with More about empathy, leading as a woman and giving back:

What was the spark for starting Apara?

Apara is driven by everything that has happened to me combined with my talents. I used to dress up my peers at school. I have an eye for fashion and style, but more than that I like seeing people confident. 

What motivated you to expand your mission?

I failed and repeated grade 12; as a result I suffered from depression and anxiety. I moved to a new school, and the principal took interest in me. She helped me learn about myself through listening, understanding and validating me. This enabled me to have values, goals and future aspirations. This motivated me to give this experience to others.

What’s the must-have skill you try to instill in your team?

Ubuntu. It’s an African concept that translates as: I am because you are. The act of giving back—to your neighbor and project team members—is a part of our moral duty and collective responsibility. I believe if you have this skill within a project team, the project will build resilience and be a success. 

What are the challenges of being a woman CEO in South Africa today?

Women CEOs are still the minority in an already marginal representation of women executives and managers in South Africa. If you understand that you’re in business to solve problems, then the impact of the challenges becomes less personal, and your ability to bounce back mentally, tactically and strategically improves. As an entrepreneur, we eat failure and obstacles for breakfast. 

That said, the challenges are plentiful: There is a deficit of trust in fashion, retail and education. The lesson I take from the obstructions and frustrations, delays, mistakes and failures is always to keep it moving. Remain focused on the goal and bold in the actions I take. Nothing is permanent, success included.