with Botswana entrepreneur Nametso Matlhaga
Every entrepreneur is familiar with the feeling of trepidation just before taking the leap to begin a new business or become an entrepreneur: Do I have what it takes? Is it worth it? How do I start?
Getting through this stage usually requires validating ideas and exploring to understand more about their industry and product.
In this interview with the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Botswana entrepreneur Nametso Matlhaga, a 33-year-old young female entrepreneur with a decade of experience in jewelry, manufacturing, and retail in Botswana, shares her journey to becoming an entrepreneur in Africa.
Nametso loves to work on her own own terms, bringing her vision to life in order to create her own legacy. She grew up in a family of 3, surrounded by entrepreneurs, working under her uncle who had a jewelry business which I grew up working under during my school breaks.
“At the age of 18, I started off my first business which was a construction business. The business was making money but it was challenging to deal with both my employees and clients as I was relatively young and newly started an independent business,” she says.
Nametso later made the switch from construction to establish her own jewelry manufacturing business. “It has now been 10 years since I ventured into Matthan Jewlery, my jewelry business. I have always wanted to work in a sector that is dominated by men, that has been a great motivator to pursue and grow as an entrepreneur. From way back, I have known most of the jewelers to be men, so I wanted to change that record especially in my country and in Africa that also women can venture into jewelry manufacturing. I love my work though it does not allow me to do my nails.”
Getting into the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme
Nametso tells the story of how she met an alumni of the Foundation Mavis Nduchwa. In 2017, Mavis who was also selected for 2015 Cohort, was talking to entrepreneurs about the opportunities the Programme affords entrepreneurs in Kasane. It was here Nametso decided to try her luck, after which she made it to the 2018 cohort.
“I successfully completed the 2018 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship training programme. It has been an amazing journey for me and I benefited so much from the training. A lot of it has to do with financial discipline, branding, personal branding, marketing and more on networking. Since the TEF experience, I am more opened minded. I am mentoring young Botswana who are doing extremely well in their businesses and some of them where selected for TEF program in 2019.”
“At the TEF Forum, I loved the pitching competition though I am quite a shy person, but it was amazing to see how young people in Africa have so much to offer to our continent and it took one man’s dream to actually see that and put it out there for the world to see. Young Africans are talented, they are a full package. I am strongly for entrepreneurship, women empowerment, mentorship, and a believer in positive thinking.”
Overcoming Challenges Encountered
As the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic reverberated across the world, she decided to learn and embrace the challenge brought upon by the effects of lockdowns and changes to what was “normal”. “We have been actively growing our social media platforms and mobilizing for online sales which is one area we intend to grow over this season.”
Some of the challenges I had was capital to grow the business, which I got through the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Having the right entrepreneurial skill was a challenge and such knowledge and skills are fundamental to running a successful business. The TEF entrepreneurship program was fundamental to giving not just the funding, but the entrepreneurial skills and knowledge to execute a successful business.
Nametso is expanding business operations in Botswana, and says they are increasing output and successfully meeting market demand.
“We have successfully registered our business in Nigeria which we have focused to operate by June 2021.”
“My plan is to have two more branches within Botswana by 2021 and one operating in Nigeria. Though we are successfully selling nationwide via online sales couriers we see potential in increased sales by having additional branches.”
Matthan Jewlery currently has 5 employees. Other than employing members of their locality, Nametso also actively mobilizes entrepreneurs in her locality to apply for the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, with 4 candidates who successful enrolled and benefitted on the 2019 program.
“I have learnt that patience is paramount to making your goal and vision a reality. Through the experience I have gained over my entrepreneurial journey, my mind has been open to so many opportunities around us and how to smartly engage myself and the resources around me to get things done.
My advice to young people and other aspiring entrepreneurs is that we are well capable. We can indeed make it through entrepreneurship, our economies need us, Africa needs us and you owe it to yourself to become everything you ever dreamt of being.”