Windhoek Observer (WO) Journalist, Khanyiswa Mogotsi, this week spoke to entrepreneur and businesswoman, Twapewa Kadhika, who has partnered with Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC) to create
The Olafika SME Development and Mentorship Program, which will assist, guide and teach people venturing into business.
In the interview, Kadhikwa spoke about her failures, challenges and successes.
WO: Give us a little background about yourself
TK: I was born in Katutura, in a location called Gemeente. I have always been curious about change, especially in the community. I believe that we have been naturally designed not to be ambitious, so I decided to be the change because nobody was going to save me; nobody cared. Through that change, I discovered my entrepreneurial gift and I have just used that as an instrument.
WO: What convinced you to become a businesswoman?
TK: I won’t say that it was a single convincing factor, but more of a calling. I just wasn’t aware of my type of calling. I had a business administration degree and after school all my friends went to look for jobs, whereas I wanted to create my own employment.
I have realised that too many times we blame the system. We blame the government, we blame Harambee, we blame the president, we blame and blame. But how many of us are doing something about it?
What are you doing to improve the system? What are you doing to add value to it, besides just complaining? Namibians love complaining. Why are we not bringing solutions, instead? That is why I decided to be one of those change agents.
I remember in the graduation hall the day of commencement, people asked me “So, where are you going to work?” which was upsetting to me because I was already working, I owned a salon.
I had just paid for my degree and bought a car, so I didn’t understand what they meant. The questions and doubtful remarks I received from people really encouraged me to take my work more seriously.
WO: What were the difficulties you faced starting a business as a black woman?
TK: It is no secret that the structural design of our community was designed for black women to not succeed. There was no policy in place that was able to push the black woman forward.
We were designed to bear children, to be at the open market selling tomatoes and potatoes with children on our backs. If you as a woman wanted to succeed, you would need to do extraordinary things.
WO: How do you keep your business thriving during the current economic recession?
TK: What I have learned in business is, during economic turmoil, relationships are important. Right now we are managing relationships. After all these years, we are not really managing the business anymore, but the relationships that govern the business i.e. employees, stakeholders, the community, investors, to name a few.
WO: Are you a member of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) and why?
TK: YES! I am a child of the Chamber. My first holiday job was at the Chamber as a paper puncher. I grew up in the Chamber and I believe that I will get old in the Chamber. The Chamber is very important. It is the officially recognized business voice of Namibia. Business voices become stronger when we talk together. There are a lot of unions and associations that have no muscle unless they are united. Unity is very important.
WO: Why did you decide to launch the mentorship program?
TK: After a lot of personal development, which I am still undergoing, I came to a stage where I realized that I have a lot of knowledge on how to start businesses.
People always asked me how I did it and how I managed with this and that, and that is when I made a choice to turn the answers into a business to release myself into my community and show them how.
Unemployment will not fix itself. I am sure if I can be the “Twapewa” there can be one hundred more “Twapewas”. That is why I formalized the mentorship program.
If you want to have a successful business, you have to have an organized plan; you cannot rely on “hopefully, one day”. In America, they do not care about what or who you are, as long as you are able to make a profit that helps the country thrive. We should have the same mindset in Namibia.
WO: What is Olafika?
TK: Olafika is an Oshiwambo terminology meaning, “The time has come”. It is a mentorship program that will teach unskilled entrepreneurs how to stand up for themselves.
The program will train Small or Medium Enterprises (SME) on how to become better entrepreneurs and run better enterprises. It will teach them how to turn their skills into a business.
Every year, the program will take in five SMEs from each region. It is sponsored by NDTC and we will be celebrating the launch on the 9th of August.
WO: What has been the positive and negative feedback you have received since launching the program?
TK: The negative feedback I have received was people asking me why I am teaching others, followed by was I not worried that the people I teach would overtake me. I thought that was so funny. Am I so super that I am the only one with the gift? What about when I die? What will remain?
On the positive side, others have commended my launch of the program. I am grateful for the sponsorship from NDTC. It shows that they believed in me.
WO: Through which platforms are you promoting your book?
TK: The books have become a reference material in the schools. As of 2019, students will study my writing in the curriculum. We also have a website and the book launch will be on the ninth. The books will be available at different stationery shops as well.
WO: Every successful business venture has a rise and a fall. How are you preparing for a possible dip in your currently rising success curve?
TK: I am not here because I am flawless. I am not worried about that because most of it is out of my control. What is within my control is how tough and focused I am, because even when you fall, you land on your chin with your face up rather than on your forehead with your face in the ground. Failure is part of the process; it is part of the lesson, part of the experience and its lessons learned pave the way for the next success. Failure is NEEDED.
WO: IS there anything more you would like to add?
TK: I am very interested in a concept called generational thinking. In the book, I put down a list of 220 types of businesses you can start only because I feel like after I have given the information on how to become a skilled entrepreneur, the reader will have an additional guide on the direction to go from there.
I would also like to add that we have to interrogate the black owned businesses. Too many times, they are owner focused. If the owner is sick, that business is sick. If the owner is depressed, that business is depressed. Should the owner die, that business is very likely to die as well.
We have to change that. We cannot afford burying businesses every weekend. Too many black owned businesses are dying.