Our story


Founded 20 years ago in a backyard, with only a handful of students determined to change mindsets and the narrative of previously disadvantaged black youths; the venture has morphed into a stellar enterprise employing business principles for social impact.

Our vision


LifeCo believes that the systemic challenges of inequality and poverty can be addressed by the progressive positive movement towards a sustainable society.

LifeCo strives to build a sustainable nation of champions by serving as a conduit – providing essential projects in entrepreneurial education, support for and investment in impact enterprises, and thereby contributing to societal and environmental wellbeing and ultimately resulting in a reduction of poverty and inequality.

Key moments


A customer service model evolves

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


  • Life College 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

  • The Life College Opportunity Fund achieves R3m – 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

  • Life College Trust and UnLtd Trust merge to become LifeCo UnLtd SA Trust
  • Founder Member: Global Social Entrepreneurship Network
  • UK Trust established


Patmanathan Pillai

Patmanathan Pillai

Executive Director/CEO LifeCo UnLtd

Pat Pillai has a passion to positively change lives. As a teacher, social entrepreneur, news anchor and executive producer – his choice of various careers has been strategic in placing him in a position to impact change, the biggest being co-founder of Life College (LifeCo) in 1997.

Pat was awarded the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007 for his work at Life College. Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. Pat was also selected as an Ashoka Globalizer Fellow – a group of 35 Ashoka Fellows drawn from approximately 2 800 globally.


Carmen Di Rito

Carmen Di Rito

Co-Founder & Chief Development Officer LifeCo UnLtd

Carmen Di Rito is co-founder and Chief Development Officer of LifeCo UnLtd. A Wits graduate with a Honours degree in Adult Education, she established Life College with Pat Pillai 21 years ago in a backyard garage with a handful of students determined to change mind-sets and the narrative of previously disadvantaged black youths.

Part of her responsibilities include LifeCo UnLtd’s medium-and long-term planning, direction and oversight of Education & Learning, Innovation & Design, Partnership Development, Social Entrepreneurs, Research & Evaluation.


Executive Leadership

Kalnisha Singh

Kalnisha Singh

Impact Economics

Emanuela Di Rito

Emanuela Di Rito

Impact Advancement and Opportunity Development
Senior Manager

Sharon Lazarus

Finance and Governance

Simbarashe Mudimbu

Senior Manager


Ferdi Gazendam, Ian Lourens, Desigan Moodliar, Ntombi Langa-Royds, Mervin Naidoo, Zanele Xaba, Pat Pillai, Carmen Di Rito, Richard Benton (UK).

Advisory Committee

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