The Extremeness of a 28 year old entrepreneur

By Fabian Simvula
June 2011
Prime Business
THE importance of safety wear is best understood by people who work in an environment that is susceptible to various hazards and accidents.  

To them, having safety wear is just as important as having skilled workers to get the job done. 

This reduces the number of injuries and accidents at the workplace, thereby enhancing work performance and productivity, boosting revenue and profitability. 

A young entrepreneur found a gap in the safety clothing supply market and immediately used it to his advantage by investing a paltry N$500, first using it to embark on yard clearing business and then develop various money-making concepts step by step from the little profit from yard clearing.

He tried five other small business ventures along the way with no success.

Fast forward with three years, Mourne Du Plessis has hit a purple patch. His company, Xtreme Safety Wear has extensively grown from that N$500 start-up capital and bulldozed its way to being a million dollar business.

“My parents were both business people and I was exposed to the business world at a young age,” says the 28 year old owner of Extreme Safety Wear.

His parents run Lady’s Fishing in Windhoek and Walvis Bay.

Xtreme Safety Wear supplies mining, joinery, abattoir, building, industrial, fumigation, road safety, fire fighting, fishing and boating industries with protective clothing.

The company also runs Corporate X which specialises in the printing and embroidery of corporate wear. Recently, it incorporated a transporting division named Xtreme Courier. All in a dream that was envisaged with just N$500 start up capital in 2008.

The former Jan Mohr High School student testifies how he has always been followed by greatness, having been the 100m and 200m schools athletics national champion for five years, before representing the Namibia junior rugby national teams.

“It was just a solitary journey of exploring the business world. I started small and I always was armed with the notion that nothing is impossible. I am not shy to say that I am a classic example of the SME philosophy. My parents armed me with moral support and the lessons I took from their business.

But Du Plessis had a choice of either playing professional rugby in Scotland after securing a lucrative contract with Sterling Country Rugby Club or staying in Namibia to realise his dreams. His performance during the Vodacom and Currie Cups between 2003 and 2006 had attracted the Scots. He chose the latter and has never stopped eating the fruits of the motherland.

Driven by passion, he had envisioned the dream of setting up Xtreme during those rugby days.

“Xtreme is driven by service, honesty and reliability. The motto is, ‘play it right and execute it right’,” he testifies.

Insists Du Plessis, “I am not entirely satisfied with what I have achieved so far. It is all good but what I’m yet to achieve shall be written about.”

While at Stellenbosch University he played rugby for the Western Province and Pumas.

“The Scottish contract was really tempting, but I didn’t want to be a follower but a leader. I chose to stay in Namibia because in sport as soon as you get injured you are automatically relegated from being part of the set up. I chose business. Business is never easy but it’s a battle worth fighting,” says the former national rugby Under 21 team star who debuted at 15. 

Du Plessis was so good a rugby player that a year after graduating from the Under 21 team, he made his international debut for the senior national team in 2005 helping Namibia win the Confederation of African rugby title.

The winger still plays amateur rugby for Reho Falcons in the local rugby premier league, to the puzzlement of many of his teammates who still cannot believe he shot down a ‘chance of a lifetime’ to play professional rugby in Europe.

“I am a naturally born salesman. I have always been business oriented as I grew up in an environment that bubbled out the passion for business in me.  

“My mother is my role model. We never had everything but we had enough. She never backed out of anything that she started. She fought for the family business for 13 years and she is still running it. This has equipped me with the rightful attitude. I am used to setbacks but it never gets me down,” he exudes. 

At 28, he dreams of becoming the main safety wear supplier in sub Saharan Africa.

“I am the next Carl List of modern day Namibia. Safety wear is indeed a necessity especially for companies who hire employees to work on jobs that entail some degree of danger such as those engaged in the construction, mining, industrial, chemical handling, road works or factory processes.  

Du Plessis is currently organising a national safety conference to be held later this year in collaboration with the line ministries and other stakeholders.

“However, safety wear is not something cheap, particularly when the workforce is composed of hundreds or even thousands of workers. Even if you run a business with fewer staff, you still have to consider their safety. We want to implement safety standards with the help of the Government.

“There are a number of companies that specialise in the production of various types of safety wear. They typically have their products custom-made to meet the specific requirements of their clients. Obviously, different jobs require different degree and level of protection. 

“There are quite a few guys in this industry that supply safety wear. I strive at being the best because I am driven by passion. Objectives are the practical steps needed to help you achieve your short-term and long-range goals while goals are the motivational steps that link us to our dreams and inspiration is the platform that makes our dreams a reality,” he philosophises.

Narrating how he has become so successful under 30; “There are two things that avail a person to success. You must have the ability to have faith. Without God nothing is possible. I believe in God and I read the bible every morning. The second thing is hard work. You have to give it that extra bit. With failure comes success. If you fail in something try something else. I have failed in six other businesses but I surged forward. Never give up on your dreams but always work harder. It is not all about the business failure but it’s about you growing in the business,” he hints. 

Xtreme supplies safety industrial wear to industrial giants like NamWater, NamPower, and Namdock among others. The company is on the verge of securing a contract with an Asian firm that will see them importing industrial safety wear directly without using South Africa.

In addition, new industrial equipment is expected before the end of this year for the company to start manufacturing its own safety wear, with Namibian specifications.

“I currently have a work force of 12 workers (including his two sisters) in Windhoek and Walvis Bay. I will need about 60 people to achieve my goals. The biggest challenge is finding honest people. When you are in business you must do it with a difference. Get up and do it. You must not wait for it to get better.  

“Namibia is a laid back country which is a killer instinct in business. We need go getters. I want to be remembered for what I did in business. I started off with nothing and I have managed to build an empire from scratch. Anyone can do it. We often limit ourselves because we are scared of exploring new avenues forgetting that you do get extra ideas when you move on,” he says. 

The youngest in a family of three, Du Plessis is engaged to Kim Wolman and the couple is blessed with a two-and-a-half year old son, Liam.

A go getter who has managed to overcome fear and procrastination, Du Plessis has drifted his skills and knowledge from knowing to believing. PF