Making hay while sun shines

By Kaula Nhongo
September 2012
Women in Business
For the past 12 years, Dolly Nengushe (41) has been making a living through designing and selling invitation cards for schools, corporate companies and Government ministries around Namibia.

Growing up, the mother, pastor and businesswoman was considered one of the least gifted of her nine siblings. And failing Grade 10 twice had not only bruised her ego and crushed her spirits but it left her with a bleak future; she thought she would never be anyone important in life.

In 2001, Nengushe’s life made a turn for the worst; her husband was still a student and they both did not have a job.

Life became unbearable to the extent that they were not even able to look after their only child.

As luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself at Concordia High School where the organisers of the matric farewell were looking for someone to design cards for them; she did not waste time to grab this rare opportunity.

The cards she designed were instantly accepted, thus giving her the urge to pursue the business idea with vigour.

Efforts to get a loan from the banks were fruitless since both she and her husband had no formal employment.

With only N$1500, she embarked upon a journey of discovery with her husband by trying to establish a market for her cards around Namibia.

In December of 2001, their first stop was Swakopmund where her husband (who is a musician) played his guitar in the streets while she stood by his side selling Christmas cards; the response she received was amazing; even she was surprised.

She had opened the door to a gold mine and nothing was going to stop her then, she thought. So she made more cards and sourced more customers.

As time passed by, Nengushe booked a table along Independence Avenue with the City of Windhoek at the centre of the city to sell her cards.

“We would make cards at night and sell them during the day, we had no rest,” she beams adding; “In the streets, people from all walks of life saw my designs, liked them and started ordering for their respective companies. We became well-known in and around the city and big companies made very big orders for executive, birthday, wedding and diplomats’ thank you cards.”

In 2003, Nengushe started branching out to corporate promotional items, which proved to be easy since she had already established a market.

Even though she was now making money, she felt she needed an education. So she enrolled at a vocational school where she did secretarial studies and later enrolled at the Polytechnic of Namibia for a national diploma in commerce.

Now the owner of Event Management Specialty, her company makes promotional items which include coasters, key holders, pens, T-shirts and caps and she is also involved in event-planning. She does these for companies like Old Mutual, FNB, Bank of Namibia, Agribank and different ministries.

Her designs range from flowery cards with ribbons for weddings to plain greeting cards with beautiful messages. She has also brought an African feel to some of them with others made of grass.

“I come up with most of my personal designs because I want them to have my own identity,” she says.

Being a business woman presents many challenges and one always has to keep abreast with the ever changing environment of the business fraternity. To be always on top of her game, Nengushe attends many business seminars on business planning and management.

“Women have to learn how to empower themselves and that can only happen through hard work. A recent workshop I attended on women empowerment and change management was really informative and presented very practical results,” she says.

To date, Nengushe makes around N$30 000 a month and she is now more than capable to fend for her four kids.

“My parents instilled good morals of spirituality and Christianity in us and they have helped in my day-to-day life. I gave my life to God at the age of 12 and when I turned 18, I became a Sunday school teacher,” she relates.

She has managed to build an empire from nothing but just a few dollars in her pocket and the support of her husband. With only four employees, they have managed to supply materials, organise events and provide promotional items to different companies in Namibia.

“God has invested potential in everybody, we all have gifts, hence we should make use of them. If you have a passion for something, pursue it. You will be surprised where it might take you,” she advises.

Nengushe believes that believing in God’s power and grace is the only way Namibians will prosper. PF