Our Story

Now in our third decade, LifeCo was founded in a garage in 1997, with 16 students determined to build their confidence, develop their critical thinking skills and run small entrepreneurial projects.

A pioneering team built the early LifeCo in a community in the South of Johannesburg - and then slowly grew it to serve South Africans in 8 out of the 9 provinces.

Today the business has morphed into a stellar enterprise, with exceptional governance, employing business principles for social and economic impact. It continues to develop entrepreneurial human capital, and invests in early to growth-stage impact enterprises and selected large scale established businesses.

Our Vision

A generative economy - championed by Impact Entrepreneurs

LifeCo strives to build a sustainable nation of champions by serving as a catalyst – providing essential projects in entrepreneurial education, as well as support for and investment in socio-environmental impact enterprises. We work to reduce poverty and measured climate change mitigation strategies.

Our dream is to be part of a generative economy, that does no harm and is shared by all.

Key Moments


A customer service model evolves

  • Start-up capital of $2000
  • Founding principles: Self-reliance, give value first, trade for change


  • LifeCo Opportunity Fund
  • Ashoka Fellowship awarded


A corporate sales and service model evolves

  • Launch Business Life – leadership programmes to blue chip companies

An investment model evolves

  • LifeCo UnLtd manages to raise R3m as start-up capital for LifeCo UnLtd Investments.


  • The launch of ‘Nelson Mandela the Champion Within’ – in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation
  • Dorper Wind Farm signed
  • Investments in large-scale established enterprises


A national and global impact network evolves

  • Founder Member: Global Social Entrepreneurship Network
  • UK Trust established


Founding member of the African Venture Philanthropy Alliance


Patmanathan Pillai

Patmanathan Pillai

Executive Director/CEO LifeCo UnLtd

Pat has a passion to positively change lives and grow businesses.

He’s a teacher, entrepreneur, news anchor and executive producer – the most significant being Founder of LifeCo in 1997.

Carmen Di Rito

Carmen Di Rito

Co-Founder & Chief Development Officer LifeCo UnLtd

Carmen Di Rito comes from an entrepreneurial family and has always cherished the idea that education and entrepreneurship can come together to build a nation and its economy.

Executive Leadership


Emanuela Di Rito

Emanuela Di Rito

Executive: Impact Advancement

Sharon Lazarus

Executive: Finance & Governance



Anele JL Malumo, Avra Moodley, Ferdinand A Gazendam, Mervin Naidoo, Ntombi B Langa-Royds, Pat DS Pillai, Richard Benton(UK), S Carmen Di Rito, Zanele B Xaba.

Advisory Committee

Doug Smollan, Dr Reuel Khoza, Jabu Mabuza, Joel Netshitenzhe, Pregs Govender, Prof. Njabulo S Ndebele, Santie Botha, Wendy Lucas-Bull.