Justina Kavale is a 33 year old entrepreneur who has found a new passion in soaps and cosmetics. She recently started a small business in Namibia that will focus on manufacturing soaps, detergents and cosmetics. Running her business part time, Justina hopes to be able to eventually focus on growing her business and leaving her regular “9-5” job. Her dream is to become a full-time Entrepreneur and she is on her way to business success!
The African Entrepreneurship Award got to meet Justina in Namibia and she gave some advice for other African Entrepreneurs!
What motivated you to start your own company?
The idea of starting up my own company started building up in me when I registered for my Masters in Business Administration. As I did the different modules, I realized that my position in the organization I worked for did not necessarily allow me to use some of those skills. So I thought, if I have my own company, I will be able to apply some of the concepts better. Things like innovation as part of Entrepreneurship, Market Research, basic accounting/ bookkeeping and many more. Then the idea of registering my own company was born and became a reality in May 2012.
However, the company has been dormant since its registration in 2012 until towards the end of 2014 when I started to take action to realize this dream. At the moment I have few products on offer which I made and am promoting them under the “ELI” brand. Shower gel, Dish Wash and Lip Balms. I will keep adding new products every 2 months. For example, next month we are introducing the floor cleaner.
I wanted to offer a service or product that helps in meeting a basic need. I also wanted to be unique in a way that I did not want to go into a business that everyone in Namibia seem to be doing. I wanted to offer something different, so I avoided areas like catering, décor, entertainment etc. I also wanted a business where I focus on making my own product (manufacturing) and not buying and re-selling. Eventually I want to be able to offer employment opportunities to others and make a difference in our economy. I just think time has come to have Namibian made products as I think we heavily rely on imports and have very few products made locally. I thought soaps and cosmetics have not really been explored in Namibia as I only know of less than 4 companies that do soaps in Namibia. There could be more, but it is a market not really explored as almost all big retail shops have soaps from other countries.
At the moment, I only have the Lip Balm that is 100% natural. But the idea is to slowly shift to Eco Friendly products in the future. This can only happen if I reach a stage where I can get funding. Specialists in Research and Product Development in the soap and cosmetic industry are not cheap.
What was the hardest part of starting a business in Namibia?
The hardest part is finance. Saving up to buy a Liquid Soap Mixer Machine and first batch of raw materials was not easy. But I had to do this so that when I go to financial institutions for financing, I would already have the business operational and products ready to be shown to make it easier to explain my concept. There is also a challenge in getting necessary equipment and materials locally. One has to import the machines and different soap bottles from South Africa. That puts pressure on the pricing of the products because one has to pay high transport costs and import levies in addition to the prices of bottles and machinery. Marketing is also not easy as many people are used to certain brands they have used for years and you have to convince them to shift to your products. I have also realized that sometimes people have doubt in the local products, but with the passion I have for this, I believe with time I will change that perception. My aim is to make a quality product.
What advice can you offer others from what you have learned in creating your own business?
Believe in your ideas. The passion in what you are doing only comes when you believe in the idea yourself. It also becomes easier to introduce and sell the idea to your target clients when you believe in it. It is also important to talk to people who are passionate about business and creating solutions for needs in the community. Join forums that promote the ideas of Entrepreneurship. Every time you attend those types of sessions, you become more motivated and willing to work on your idea.