In 2003 Jeremiah Munguri, 41 of Masvingo came to Botswana to work for Shoe Doctor, a shoe repair and leather refinishing company.
Three years later he opened Gabs Leather Doctor and since then his business has grown into a respectable and profitable entity with big potential for expansion.
Equipped with a diploma in leather works, experience and customers from his old job, Mungiri started with shoe repairs and gradually added other leather finishing related services.
After applying glue to a section of the car roof he was working on, Jeremiah looks up and says; “You know, if you’re doing good work customers will come after you wherever you are. When customers brought their shoes they would ask me if I couldn’t help them with their seats and other things and that’s how we ended up expanding on the services offered. Our customers helped us to grow through word of mouth.”
Gabs Leather Doctor, Munguri is proud to note, serves customers from all walks of life including high profile figures.
He recalls that former president; Festus Mogae also once brought shoes and a belt to be fixed. “I knew then that I was doing a great job,” he says beaming.
While fixing the president’s shoe was a great boost for his business, Munguri says he particularly remembers a pair of 35 years old shoes he fixed for former cabinet minister, Archibald Mogwe.
“That is still the oldest shoe I have ever fixed,” he says.
Other high profile customers that have walked through Leather Doctor doors include SADC office and former ministers, Mabeo and Siele.
He also designed a shoe for orange mobile network advert.
Although the business grew steadily, the leather doctor says it wasn’t without challenges.
Being a startup, there were many mistakes, acts of sabotage and other challenges.
“At first we operated from a rented caravan here at the Buyani shopping complex but there was a bar here and drunks would pee on our workshop. That’s however no longer a problem since there is no bar anymore and we have our own caravan,” says the father of two.
The business also went through a rough patch when torrential rains destroyed customers goods.
“ We paid for the loss and learnt our lesson. Now we only take what we can handle and explain our situation to customers. Those who want quality work have to be patient with us,” he says.
If the economy continues to be stable and no other obstacles arise, Gabs Leather Doctor will have a big workshop in 10 years.
“We intend to refurbish and sell old furniture totally redesigned from ideas in magazines to then buy new furniture from https://ivyandwilde.com/” he reveals.
In the meantime Munguri’s oldest son hopes to one day join his father in the family business so he is studying hard so that he can bring improvements to the business, especially through technology.
To anyone who wants to venture into a similar business, Munguri says; “It’s a good business. There’s a lot of furniture, shoes, bags and car seats that need refurbishing but you have to be prepared to work hard and be the best. That way, customers would be loyal to you.”