A cross section of small business operators share survival stories of how they make ends meet from their respective humble environments
Fruits and veggies healthy for business
Winnie Ndaba, 45, a fruit and vegetable vendor who operates from the Gaborone bus rank believes there is a lot of money to be made from the streets.The lady from Lobatse says she was inspired by her mother who used to sell clothes.
In 1999 she started her own business but later realised that fruits and vegetables sold better than clothes and in 2009 she started selling the perishables.
Ndaba says she also wanted to bring something different in the market to avoid competing for customers with her mother.
“I t is winter and I noticed that people need vitamins, that’s why I sell so many oranges. They are the ones boosting my business,” she said.
Sharing some of the challenges they come across, Ndaba says sometimes they are prohibited from selling products from accross the border.
“Normally I buy my stock from South Africa at cheaper prices than in Botswana but when the boarders get closed there is no other option, I just buy from Tuli Block farmers. Sometimes it takes over a week to get the best products,” she noted.
On a good month, Ndaba says, she makes over P1 200.00.
Tswana cuisine is my meal ticket
Traditional dishes have seen a youngster from Mathangwane village establishing a profitable small business at the Gaborone bus rank.
Samp mixed with beans, lebelebele and Setswana chicken are some of the most sought after dishes by city dwellers who throng Baka Ntope’s stall everyday for a healthy meal.
“I learnt everything I know about catering from home because I never had the opportunity to do any catering course. I learnt from my parents and relatives as well as from watching cooking programs by established chefs on television,” she says.
The 30-year old Ntope says she started her business with her salary savings she had while employed at Landrover.
She was earning close to P3 000.00 monthly, but after starting her business, she makes up to P500.00 daily.
She sells a medium take away meal of either rice, macaroni or spaghetti for P15.00 with a piece of meat while the larger one sells for P25.00 with two pieces of meat.
“The major challenge is that the food in the shops is expensive and some of my clients have a tendency of taking the food on credit and later on refuse to pay,” said Ntope.
Apart from selling food she also sell different tea and slices bread.
Manicure under the tree
A fascination for beauty has turned into a business venture for talented Kamogelo Molebatsi, 28, who operates a manicure and pedicure business under a tree near the Gaborone bus rank.
She did not do any course related to beauty therapy, but she followed a friend’s advice and utilised her talent to make money under the tree shade.
She describes the business as an easy task. “when you offer a service to a client you do your best, and when she gets satisfied with the exquisiteness you did on her, she will soon come back and sometimes bring some more clients,” said Molebatsi.
She explained that some of the challenges she face are customers who requests for service and later on after doing their manicures complain that the price is too high just to avoid paying.
“The other thing I noticed is that there isn’t much business mid –month. On a busy day I can make P500.00,” said the youngster who complements the business with home visits to offer her services.
Mending bad soles
A 42-year cobbler, Chingani Seikokolo, from Leruane village learn the trade from his father many years ago when he assisted with repairing customer’s shoes.
Without any formal education he started his business in 2008, with the extensive practical experience he got.
The business has since grown with different customers bringing their shoes for fixing everyday.
Just like most small businesses, Leruane says his major challenge is lack of space as sometimes the Bye-Law officers chase them away from the bus rank.
“The other thing is when it is raining, its either I wait for the rain to stop or I just stay home hopelessly,” he said.
He further noted that some customers have a tendency of bringing old torn shoes which they end up not collecting, while others bring their shoes and when they are told they are not ready for collection they never go back for collection.
“From the profit I get I am able to pay rent, pay shoolfees and buy stock. On a busy day I make up to P700.00,” he says.
From ice cream to clothing
When he realised that formal education was not his gift, hardworking Raphael Mathe, quit school and started his own business selling ice cream.
Whilst at primary school he used to visit his aunt who operated an ice-cream business at the bus rank and she inspired him get himself a bicycle and start selling ice-cream on the streets.
Motivated him to sell ice cream with a bicycle. The business was good and he decided to diversify into selling clothes ranging from tracktops, caps, bracelets, belts and others to earn more.
“I always make sure that I match my stock with whatever is on fashion, to beat my competitors. I get my stock from South Africa and I make sure that I bring what my competitors do not have. My clothes are good quality materials with various labels,” Mathe explained.
On a busy day, especially during month end, he makes close to P4000.00 .