Powered by a strong gut feeling, Naomi Kefas quit the cosy corporate life to find Magnetize Group after gaining a wealth of experience in the financial industry, working for Nedbank Namibian and then for Mediva Group.
Although she knew nothing about running a business, the realisation there was a gap in the market for quality locally produced wide-ranging cleaning products became her motivation.
The once-upon-a-time Nedbank Namibia employee and Mediva Group of companies financial manager would establish her business in 2008, which she ran on a part-time basis. So consumed with starting her own venture, she would save every penny for capital as she laid the foundation of her business in her dreams.
Having worked full-time for her company for five years now, she acknowledges the company has steadily grown. The growth has seen the establishment of subsidiaries, such as MagChem, which manufactures all cleaning detergents and equipment supplies; Mag Medical, which deals with medical supplies and Mag Properties, which deals with real estate (rentals, house sales and property management), construction and renovations.
MagChem manufactures products, such as the general purpose cleaners; MagChem garment care detergents; MagChem floor, tile/carpet care material; MagChem motor care products; MagChem toilet papers; MagChem household bleaches and MagChem dishwashing liquids.
Located in Gold Street, Prosperita, Windhoek, MagChem also sells commercial sweepers, such as fan mops, dust buster trolleys, servo trolleys, vacuum cleaners and hands-free bathrooms dispensers.
The company has ventured into supplying medical and dental equipments to private and public hospitals too.
Some of her clients include most Government offices, the SME Bank, Gazelle Enterprises, Green Med, Tunga Investment, Cosmic Investment and Rainbow Deco cc.
Kefas has since grown her clientelle-base beyond the capital in towns, such as Rundu, Ondangwa, Oshikango and currently considers initiating partnerships in Angola.
However, Kefas acknowledges starting and growing the business was not a stroll in the park. Typical of an emerging business despite doing the ground work, resources, especially financial, were a stumbling block. “At the beginning, we had failed to focus enough attention on cash-flow generation and management of the company resources. However, we have overcome this by adequately capitalising and shoring up cash reserves to meet all obligations as they are needed to handle downturns and emergencies,” she notes.
Competition in the market with already established businesses soon showed Kefas she had to be creative and innovative to keep her business afloat. Given the size of the market, she could not afford to focus on a single item or spend all her time trying to be the best at one thing; she had to diversify.
Trying to come up with smarter ways to handle negative perceptions about black business owners, as well as focusing on providing above-the-cut customer satisfaction and service delivery have since kept the business growing.
She, however, laments the public’s lack of confidence in locally-made products. To this end, she suggests public educational campaigns to help turn the tide for locally-made products as far as preferences are concerned.
“As ordinary citizens, we must work extra hard to provide and sustain local quality brands at affordable prices, which is sometimes very difficult to achieve. That is because our production costs are very high and we are constantly faced with stiff competition from South African and other foreign suppliers,” she complains.
On the other hand, she highlights Namibian businesses’ progress despite the challenges. Thus, her mission is to ensure Magnetize Group moves towards an eco-friendly manufacturing of cleaning detergents while providing rewarding products to its customers.
“Nowadays, the consumer is market-savvy and as Magnetize Group, we have made it our business to stay on top of things when it comes to our products. We use environmentally friendly materials made from local plants, such as aloe vera and lemons. We also follow Government-set standards and regulations, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, as well as international laws regarding manufacturing detergents,” Kefas says, adding, “We are currently busy installing a software to improve our supply chain, which is expected to fasten our speed and give us a dependable advantage.”
A good business tends to flourish not only through good products but also workers’ motivation and efficiency. To achieve this feat - maximising her workers’ efficiency - Kefas leads by taking a methodical approach to ensure all her employees know the organisation’s objectives. This way, she provides the necessary support for her subordinates to work towards their set goals.
She has a team of six permanent employees, as well as temporary workers who are recruited whenever she receives big orders. Her aim is to see them being result-orientated, critical thinkers and problem solvers.
She stresses on ownership as the most important factor she teaches her employees. They need to feel a great sense of control and responsibility, thus increasing accountability.
As a woman, mother and wife, Kefas always encourage women to gain the skills and knowledge that would allow them to overcome obstacles in life, their work environments and help them develop themselves within the society.
Respect should be earned, she insists: “It should not be based on gender but should rather be earned founded on professional conduct and business offering, hence it becomes a fair manner for either a male or a female. This is the philosophy of Magnetize Group.”
Kefas’ future goals include spreading her wings across the country and southern Arica and becoming a reputable and professional brand customers can rely on.
Apart from becoming the number-one Namibian manufacturer of cleaning detergents and equipment, medical supplier and property developer, Kefas also aspires to increase her business’ market share by at least by 25% by year-end. PF