Lighting up Namibia

By Kaula Nhongo
November 2012
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It took losing her job and facing uncertainty to prompt Bernadette Simana to start her own solar installation business.

Realising most rural areas have no electricity, Simana, 39, started her company, Trinity Business Solutions, to provide solar installation and electricity to these Namibia areas.

After working as an organisational development officer at the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank) for a short while, Simana was retrenched in 2007. This left her in the lurch, grappling with the reality of the situation.

Born as the fifth child of 10 siblings in Aminuis Constituency, Omaheke Region, Simana lived a very quiet life and hardly took risks.

The unexpected loss of her job was so devastating she almost gave up on life. The situation got even worse when negotiations to get a retrenchment package did not fall through and she had nowhere to turn to.

Facing eviction from her house, burdened with back-dated college fees to clear and with no penny to even meet her basic needs, Simana had to take action. Lost and broken while sitting on a bench in town one afternoon, a thought struck her. According to her, it was as if God had spoken directly to her.

“While sitting on that bench, I did a lot of soul searching. I asked God why my life was not going the way I had hoped. I suddenly remembered a lady who had once trained my former colleagues and I on solar systems at a work seminar,” she narrates.

She immediately contacted the lady who offered to give her lessons on solar systems. For five months, Simana commuted every afternoon to the lady’s house where she was taught everything there is to know about solar systems; from how a battery is installed, to how to calculate the energy units and even how to connect cords.

The next challenge would be raising capital to start a business. Using her newly-acquired knowledge on the subject, she started giving introductory presentations to various companies on solar energy use. This enabled her to raise N$5 000 and purchase her first equipment. Her first sale was a solar cooker, which she sold and got specialists to install for the client.

“When I got my first customer, I was ecstatic. So I figured, if this was giving me so much joy, then I had to keep going,” she relates.

Business was shaky for the first two years while trying to establish herself in the market but it gradually improved as she increased her clientele-base. Five years after her retrenchment, Simana is now the proud owner of a company that installs solar systems for lights, water pumps, solar cookers and water heating systems.

Initially, she concentrated on Windhoek but Trinity Business Solutions now has interests in places like Omuthiya, Oshigambo, Okakarara and the South.

Not only does she bring light to the people, literally but she also creates employment everywhere she goes by contracting locals to carry out ground work such as installations and digging wherever needed.

This intelligent, down-to-earth woman who was once a nobody, has made a name for herself and now makes about N$60 000 monthly profit. As a true entrepreneur, she channels this money to the expansion of her business.

Last year, she decided to venture into house renovations since solar systems are seasonal and not as effective during the rainy season. With that, her big break came not so long ago when she won a contract with the Ministry of Defence to renovate Luiperd Valley in Suiderhof.

Top Government officials have also made use of her services with the likes of John Mutorwa for whom she installed a solar pump and cooling system at his rural home.

“I am very grateful for the support I have received from different Government ministries. I have had the honour of working with people like Minister Kazenambo Kazenambo for whom I installed a solar system at his property in Gam Village in Tsumkwe,” she says.

She adds that things have not been easy over the years. Not only were there times she had to sleep in her car while driving from town to town to install solar systems but she would even go for days without a proper home-cooked meal.

Most of her equipment are locally supplied except for the big solar systems, which are imported from America, where she has managed to establish direct contact with suppliers.

Trinity Business Solutions is a registered solar supplier for the Ministry of Mines and Energy from where clients are referred to for solar installations.

With only four permanent employees, Simana has built a mini empire that has changed people’s lives.

“Knowing that I have provided people with a service that has changed their lives brings joy to my heart. As much as we do it for the money, it is also good to know that you are appreciated,” she says.

Losing her job left her with an uncertain future but she persevered, knowing that, “Resources get finished but ideas live on”.

“Look inside yourself; we are all here for a purpose and that is to leave a legacy. We need to ask ourselves what it is that we are good at, then take steps to achieve that,” she advises. PF