WHEN NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INNOVATION
NAMIBIA could become a thriving manufacturing country if the government adopt a policy of import substitution.
This is according to candle manufacturer, Ndahafa Mutongolume who has become a household name at weddings and other special events.
She objects to the philosophy of importing basic products such as candles, clothes, cooking oil, and lotions from neighbouring South Africa and calls for a speedy solution to substitute this by establishing light industries run by local entrepreneurs.
“There are many basic products that could easily be made in Namibia if the government adopts and effectively commits itself to a policy of import substitution. Such a policy will form the basis for Namibia’s industrialisation and will contribute to job creation and poverty reduction,” says Mutongolume who owns Ndafy Creations.
The idea to start up candle manufacturing business crossed her mind following her previous involvement in the beauty and decoration businesses.
“At first I used to do decorations at events, however I soon noticed that most of the candles used at these parties were candles from shops, and most of them made in South Africa. I did research and realised that only few businesses make candles, hence I decided to embark on a business that does personalised candles for special events and parties as well as other wax made products,” She says.
The business is still in its infancy but is thriving with several players in the tourism industry and other corporate going for her products.
Ndafy Creations provides a wide range of services, such as event planning, event decoration, wedding decorations, and make up for bridesmaids, but she aims to focus more on the candle manufacturing aspect.
She sources her raw materials from Okahandja and at times from Cape Town and is motivated by what she describes as huge market for candle business in Namibia. Her clientele is made up mainly of event organisers, wedding planners, and other stakeholders involved in event management.
“Candles are very popular during events and I supply individuals and organisations with personalised candles that are tailor-made for their specific gatherings.”
During the 20th Namibia independence celebrations, the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture ordered candles branded with the celebrations logo from Mutongolume, and other ministries also showed interest in her products.
She has made personalised candle birthday presents for high profile individuals among them Minister of Defence, Charles Namoloh.
She has began manufacturing soaps that she says are popular with clients.
“The soap is of good quality and I receive daily orders from clients. I use the soap myself and as Namibians we should develop a culture of utilising our locally made products. I know some people tend to be sceptical about Namibian made products and think they are of poor quality but I dare them to come and try these products. They will be impressed with the results,” she notes.
Mutongolume stayed in Germany with her aunt for eight years after matriculating at Ella du Plessis, and speaks German fluently. While in Germany, she did a three year Diploma in skin therapy and is a qualified beautician.
“When I returned to Namibia in 2008, I quickly got involved in the beauty and decoration industry where I was doing make-ups for Tequila, Gazza and The Dogg’s video models. I do not know how it spread that I was also good at event decorations but it could have been taken from my decoration and preparation of family parties that I have been doing ever since high school,” says the 29 year-old beauty.
Necessity is the mother of innovation, and after realising that the Namibian events management and decoration industry needs specially made candles, Mutongolume found her niche within the market. But she has bigger dreams of making Namibia a self-sufficient country when it comes to candles and wax products.
In July, Mutongolume was awarded a N$ 30 000 grant by the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN), through the Bank’s Innovation Fund programme that aims at giving financial support to entrepreneurs with original business concepts and technology that may not have been fully tested and harnessed, but that have the potential to deliver new or improved products and services to the market.
Mutongolume hopes the loan will help procure better and more machinery for the manufacturing of candles.
“I am thankful to the DBN for the financial assistance and I will utilise the funds to buy other necessary equipment that will help improve the capacity of my business. I want to increase the capacity of the business because as my clients increase, I should be able to cater for all of them without delays.”
Her business, located at the SME Incubation Centre in Katutura, currently employs three people
“Germans are fast people, and when they do business they do it quick and they have a sharp mind. I am glad that I acquired this characteristic from them and I always try to dream of the next project,” she says.
According to Mutongolume, the benefit of dreaming is that it allows one to come up with a clear plan on how to achieve goals.
She urges the youth not to fear putting their business plans into practice thinking that they might not succeed because the government has put up infrastructures necessary to providing a supporting environment for them.
“The government has put up many infrastructures and have many pro-youth policies. It is just up to us to make maximum use of these policies and create employment for ourselves and others.”
Although she admits that being in business is not always smooth sailing, she is adamant that setbacks should not discourage a person from pursuing their dreams. She emphasises the need for youth to start-up businesses with the aim of substituting products that are imported from outside the country.
Mutongolume is a family woman with a one year old daughter and a supportive partner, whom she says helped her cope with the business pressures and family commitments.
“My partner is supportive and understanding but I also make sure I do my part. When I am home I am a mother, and as a mother I provide the necessary love to the family, however as soon as I step out of the house I am a business woman with a burning desire to succeed.”she says.
Mutongolume applauds government, for policies that allow women to reach their maximum potential but cautions women to always view themselves as women first and for most.
“I am a proud woman, and as such I do not try to be like a man, just as men do not try to be like us. Hence it is very important that as women, we live as women and respect our men but respect is also not a one way thing.” PF