Parastus proves detractors wrong
From humble beginnings, and many detractors claiming that it would be a stillborn, Millennium Refrigeration and Electrical has grown into a multi-million dollar company, with 11 branches countrywide.
The company, founded by Parastus Nepolo, installs, services and repairs all refrigeration and electrical goods, ranging from cold rooms to mortuaries and air conditioners, among others.
“From the time I started, I only had a few tools to work with, and to date I can tell you that this company has property worth between N$15 and N$20 million, and the brand itself is now worth between N$40 and N$50 million,” Nepolo, who is also the company’s managing director said.
He said the genesis of the company dates back to the time when he was studying toward a Diploma in Refrigeration and Electrical Repairs at Windhoek’s Vocational Training Centre in 1999.
He registered the company in 2000, hence the name Millennium.
Nepolo was mocked by his peers when he started, because the sector was mainly dominated by multinational companies.
“I never looked back, even when they were laughing at me, and I mainly did household repairs and walked around the various locations in Windhoek, marketing my skills. Those that had broken electrical goods would invite me in and I would fix them.
“Whatever job I got, I would make sure that I gave it my best attention and leave the customer satisfied.
From the few people that I served, I eventually made a name for myself and I started getting referrals from these people, and eventually I had to look for premises to start a workshop, as some of the jobs needed more time to fix,” he said.
The self-made entrepreneur said his vision has always been to become involved in collaborations, rather than competing with the bigger players or even other upcoming entrepreneurs.
Nepolo said his stern business ethics and management model has seen him growing his empire to 11 branches countrywide, including in Windhoek, Ongwediva, Keetmanshoop, Rundu, Mariental, Opuwo, Eenhana, Swakopmund, Grootfontein, Otjiwarongo and Katima Mulilo.
All the branches are headed by well-qualified personnel, who are also shareholders of the multi-million dollar company.
“Millennium Refrigeration and Electrical had one employee, me, when we started, and now we have 140 permanent employees, and depending on the tenders that we get time and again, we may have about 40 casual employees.
“We also have trainees from the VTC coming in, to enhance their skill sets, while they are still pursuing their studies.
“All branch managers are now registered shareholders, and we always try to seek to empower other employees, who may have business ideas, for them to further their business ventures, as some people can only be employees for certain periods of time, before moving on,” he said.
The company also has subsidiaries - Oshikuku Town Lodge, Hammer Fix Trading, Silver Plate Bakery and Pararo Engineering Company.
Nepolo, however, bemoaned the late payments by government, saying this was causing problems to some macro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), since they are reliant on such payments for their daily activities.
The married father of two said some of the MSMEs receive credit facilities from lending institutions and had set deadlines to repay these funds, and the late payments from clients were jeopardising this.
“We source some of our materials from outside the country and we have to pay upfront for them to be delivered, and hence the need to borrow from banks.
“But when we invest in such projects and we do not get the money by set dates, we are blacklisted and this hinders our progress going forward, as we will not be in a position to bid for bigger tenders in the future, since we will not have credit facilities from the banks.
“This is something that the government should really look into, to make sure that MSME productivity is not hampered,” he said.
On the issue of being in competition against bigger players in the sector, Nepolo said his company had taken the stance of seeking collaborations with all and sundry, while sharing the profits, since they had more branches countrywide than others in the sector.
He said if a company was going to charge N$10, 000 for a job in Katima Mulilo, instead of them going all the way there, Millennium would collaborate with them, and share the profits at agreed prices, while supplying them with the labour.
“At the same time we will be making our services known to some people, who always thought that indigenous businesses do not have the capacity to do such jobs.”
Nepolo said they had long-term plans to branch out into the Southern African region, but they still needed to fulfil their mandate within Namibia, in terms of the indigenous empowerment under the Harambee Prosperity Plan, before they can move to other countries.