Life in death

Christinah Motlhabane
FINAL TOUCHES: Maphikela in action

Woman ventures into tombstone making

In February last year, having spent two years of her life working in the local mortuary as an attendant, where her duties included helping move the corpse to its final resting place, Neo Maphikela took her dealings with the dead in a new direction.

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After securing funding, the Selibe Phikwe native gave birth to New Jerusalem Tombstones, a business that specialises in manufacturing granite tombstones.

“I realised there was a shortage of such businesses in Botswana and especially in my area. So I drafted my proposal, gave it to Youth Development Fund and was funded P99, 683.12 to start New Jerusalem Tombstone,” the 26-year-old tells Voice Money, adding the company’s name has a special meaning.

“I chose it looking at the kind of business I am doing. It is the second home of the deceased. It gives dignity, hope, respect and love to them and their families,” Maphikela explains.

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With her workshop located at Phikwe’s Botshabelo Industrial, where she is renting, the young businesswoman currently employs three staff members.

“Tombstone manufacturing is a sensitive but flourishing business because death is no man’s friend. People believe their departed relatives are resting in peace when there is a tombstone erected, something I feel strongly about too,” says Maphikela, who sources her materials from South Africa.

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“Our prices generally start from P7, 500, and are determined by the pattern, color and type. Whatever design the customer wants, we can make,” she reveals, adding she prides herself on providing customer satisfaction.

“We are in the middle of our busy period, October to November; people are placing orders in preparation for the festive season, which is a popular time for unveiling tombstones,” notes Maphikela.

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Although the business is doing well, the tombstone maker admits there is still much room for growth.

“We depend heavily on individual sales,” states Maphikela, adding the next step would be to secure a partnership with one of the country’s many trade unions or life insurers.

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As well as making tombstones, NJ Tombstones offer unveiling, maintenance and installation.

“We also do kitchen counter tops, tabletops, trophies and bath vanities.”

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