CMG   16 June 2020

Cancer survivor and entrepreneur Codilia Gapare headshot

It'd be an understatement to say that Codilia Gapare is no quitter. From surviving cancer to becoming a respected entrepreneur, she's been the game-changer in the lives of many.

A mother of two, Codilia is the brains behind C-Lash by Cody; false eyelashes that are explicitly made for chemotherapy patients and people who have lost their eyelashes.

In 2019, Codilia gained national media coverage thanks to her inventiveness and admirable strength. WorldRemit, together with the African Diaspora magazine, sat down with Codilia to get to know more about her inspiring story.

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Necessity as the mother of invention

Life is unpredictable, and we never know what's coming next. Codilia has learnt it the hard way. An aspiring lawyer, she's been diagnosed with cancer only a few hours before her Law Degree interview.

"On the 11th of August 2014 at 3 pm, I was told I had breast cancer. At 6 pm that same day I was at Manchester Met University having an interview for my Law Degree. Unfortunately, I had to drop out of University because of my illness. But I've learnt a vital lesson. I cannot let one chapter of my life to become the whole book. I decided that my illness can't define me - and that helped me realise that I was stronger than I thought. If there is a lesson to learn from my story, it's that life is tough but so are you," she says.

Shortly after her diagnosis, she's started with the treatment.

"When I lost all of my hair, including my lashes, I suddenly realised that there was a problem. Mainstream lashes are made to stick or rest onto your natural lashes. Many don't realise, but if you don't have any lashes of your own, you can't wear false eyelashes. So, I came up with a lash that attaches to the eyelid rather than the lash. It blends with the skin, and you can apply makeup to it - just like you normally would," she explains.

Based on her own words, C-Lash by Cody is a combination of shock, strength, hope and innovation. She had to tackle all the energies around her to forge a way forward when undergoing her cancer treatment. C-Lash and the prospect it held for others propelled her to push herself ahead even despite the circumstances.

"I started working on the eyelash idea as a way to distract myself from the pain of cancer treatment. I was also severely depressed because I had to drop out of Law School - a dream I worked so hard on for so long," she said.

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“I owed it to the people.”

She had to adjust quickly, as her sons depended on her. Unfortunately, nobody was taking her business seriously in the initial stages as she had never worked in the beauty industry.

With the support of her family and close friends, Codilia managed to find strength in her distress and quickly went on an accelerated personal growth drive.

"Slowly, C-Lash became my purpose because I needed to stay strong for my boys. By the time I finished my treatment, that idea had gained so much momentum that I felt like I owed it to people like me to turn the project into a reality."

Nowadays, Codilia smiles when remembering how she went from being the girl at the bottom of her MBA class to a successful business owner. Her products are exclusively available in Boots Pharmacies countrywide in the UK!

"It's pretty bold to start a business without any business background. I faced so many uncertain times and situations, and it was truly challenging - mentally and financially. But my efforts paid off. If there's something I'd advice to aspiring business people, it's that you don't need to see the whole staircase to take the first step. The universe will show you the way, but start now!" 

Her community, members of the diaspora and industry leaders are celebrating Codilia for her efforts and hard work. Besides winning numerous awards, she has been praised by the mainstream press, including The Sun, BBC and Newsday Metro and others.

 Codilia Gapare accepting a national diversity award and giving a speech “A

What's next in the pipeline for Codilia?

It’s easy to say that Codilia has come a long journey since her diagnosis. She is currently working on an even bigger project. Through C-Life – A Life Less Ordinary, she's determined to empower women dealing with cancer. She's also dedicated to helping her sons to maintain a hunger for life.

"In my living room, the boys and I have got what we call 'The Wall of Dreams'. We put all our hopes and dreams there and motivate each other to reach our goals. It helps to make my kids realise that I am human too, and I struggle just as much as everyone else. But we are fighters, and we will always come out stronger."

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