After working as a Finance Manager for the University of Botswana for eight years Shathani Mbaakanyi felt the need to make a change even though he had no idea what he would do next.
“Everyone defines their destiny in terms of how you want to live, but UB is a big organization and so it is not easy to have any impact in the society while working there and I had to evaluate myself,” says the 35 year old Managing Director of Effective Supplies, a mother company to Safety Shoe Factory, a designer and supplier of safety boots and other protective wear for the work environment.
“Someone tells you if you are or not competent and you may or not be promoted, so I needed to apply my mind fully and judge myself fairly through growth,” adds the budding entrepreneur who further states that though he does not consider himself successful yet he is happy that he is living his job.
Though he did not yet know what he wanted to do Mbaakanyi says that he knew he did not want to be employed again so he decided to raise money doing supplies.
“We sold everything at first but along the line we thought of concentrating on some products and I saw a demand for safety clothing and that led to the birth of Safety Shoe Factory. “We get footwear from around the world.
When we started it was a bit tough but we managed; we tested the safety shoes with BOBS for compliance and then registered with PPADB as a supplier. The whole process took us a whole year and some months.
“Because we have a wide range of safety shoes which even though they have already been tested under other standard organizations we still need to verify. Next we resourced the company with both human and capital resources to get it operational.”
After including Effective Cleaning Services to their portfolio, Mbaakanyi says things became “hectic” but they managed to get past the hurdles because of the right structures and the right people.
He says however that he is not impressed by the work force in Botswana. “I’m sorry, but we have challenges in Botswana.
We need to get people from all over to turn the economy around.
Batswana don’t have patience; they move around looking for greener pastures even though we offer very good empowerment policies. Imagine what would happen if we invested in machines instead.”
The other challenge that the company faces is money but he says it is not much of an issue.
“You don’t want to be given a million to buy big stock only to be overwhelmed.
You grow with it.
“The other challenge though, is competition from the first movers.
We rely largely on government tenders and the challenge is to convince buyers that your product is quality but it seems they prefer those who set the trend.
There also seems to be lack of standards knowledge among buying officers. Our other competitors like the Chinese have no regard for standards whatsoever.
The problem is lack of regulation binding the buyers to adhere to standards, save for the mining industry.
They are only concerned with spending less and that may prove to be very dangerous, but we hope time will overcome that challenge as we continue to brand and market ourselves.
“South African companies also seem to prefer to buy from their country, which is unfair.
They don’t even compare quality. Actually there is an influx of South African companies and they seem determined to squeeze us out. We need affirmative action.
Where does he see his business in 10 years?
“There is a lot of growth in mining industry and there are so many opportunities coming up.
We also hope to distribute outside. Countries like Zimbabwe and Zambia have a lot of mining activities and we are in the middle so we have an advantage.
If only we had a dry port otherwise it’s like a mirage in the distance.
There are also lots of opportunities in the cleaning industry as the government is going to be outsourcing the cleaning services to benefit Batswana.
The cleaning industry is relatively new and there are only two or three big companies and besides, the government jobs are reserved for Batswana owned companies.”
Business minded Mbaakanyi says he comes from a business background and the family business has its own demands on his time which he could spend with his family.
“I’m married and we have a three year old daughter, but unfortunately we share time with everyone else.
We just allocate the available time especially coming from an extended family. Thank God I have siblings.”
The Safety Shoe Factory can be reached at; www.effectivesupplies.com