Journey to family empire, Pupkewitz style

By Honorine Kaze
October 2013
Prime Business



There is nothing more fulfilling than doing a follow-up interview with the owner of Millennium Refrigeration and Electrical Services, Parastus Nepolo, three years later, to recount how he has blossomed in his ventures.


For the devoted reader, it is the same continuous effort [not strength or intelligence] that Liane Cardes (author) once said is the key to unlocking one’s potential, that pushed Nepolo, into mounting higher stones.


On the day of the interview, Nepolo, with a broad smile and warm welcome, invites me into his office, which is now furnished with a comfortable black leather couch and a table with various magazines and newspapers; just opposite it.


He shares the office with his sister, Maria Nepolo, who has been part of the business for a while now. Maria’s desk is complemented with a desktop computer in the left corner of the office while Nepolo’s is in the right corner. Pleasantly enough, Nepolo has the latest Prime Focusedition on his desk, alongside various paperwork, which he subconsciously points at as he speaks.


Nepolo started his growing empire by launching his first business, Millennium Refrigeration and Electrical Services, over a decade ago while he was still a student at the Windhoek Vocational Training Centre.


Today, the company offers products and services, such as industrial pots, industrial treatment of pans, fixing E12 industrial pans and domestic electrical installations, as in air conditioners. The refrigeration and electrical services unit has since given birth to more businesses, including the Paralo Company, as well as a butchery.


Paralo is a construction company, which in the previous interview, was a mere dream. But with appropriate marketing channels, it has since flourished into a successful business, run by his two younger brothers. Commendably, Paralo has branches in ten local regions in which the mother company also has branches.


Aided by Government tenders, which have spearheaded the business, Nepolo and co. are currently busy constructing a police station in Opuwo. In addition, they construct houses for local banks’ clients who receive housing loans. This arm of the business has grown so much that it currently has a stable workforce of over 50 workers.


As with any industry, Nepolo notes there is a stiff competition in the construction sector, especially with the Chinese businesses and contractors.


“The main challenge in this sector is the difficulty to acquire certain equipments, as they are quite expensive for start-up and medium companies. I suggest that Government comes to the rescue of small businesses [with some funds], to help them acquire such equipments, so they can graduate from small to established businesses. The lack of such equipments puts us at a disadvantage in competing for big tenders,” he pleads.


It is not only the big towns that have had a taste of his success but his hometown, Okando in Omusati Region also boasts of a meat market in Nepolo’s name.


The butchery sells various meat products, although fish leads the pack given the current irregular meat supply.


To counter this challenge, he plans to start his own farming project in his plot in Okando.


Considering the ongoing drought that has shaken up local farmers in their businesses, most of them will soon be selling their livestock [as per the Government directive] at giveaway prices. Although, it is unfortunate for them, it will be beneficial for butcheries, Nepolo highlights, adding, he is on a deliberate mission to keep re-inventing his business through more innovations.


At this stage, Nepolo has acquired several industrial plots in Ongwediva where he has erected different complexes to invest in real estate. He has more plots in Grootfontein, Rundu and Eenhana. So far, it is only in Windhoek where he encounters challenges in land delivery from the municipality.


Looking back at his journey, the man who has been working tirelessly to keep expanding his business, does not regard his empire-in-the-making as a personal entity but rather a public unit that will always cater for as many people as possible; be it at shareholding or workforce level.


“I want my business to follow the model of the Pupkewitz empire; a family business. My three siblings currently work with me as shareholders in the companies. I also regard my workers as part of the family and always encourage them to take ownership of what they do,” he says.


To keep his business moving forward, Nepolo invests in strengthening his workers’ skills by registering them for various courses related to their work. He also takes in at least 15 trainees, annually, from vocational training schools for internship purposes.


In all his companies, he emphasises on workforce equality and therefore employs as many women as men. So far, all his companies employ over 100 workers.


As a believer in women empowerment, Nepolo says it is time women attained more education and invested in their own businesses to gradually depend more on themselves than on the men in their lives.


“Women’s dependency on men is one of the causes of domestic violence experienced locally,” he stresses.


The ambitious businessman says he has only got a loan once in his entire business career to buy a car [in 2005], because he has “the habit of saving for whatever I need and then buy it in cash than on contract loans that will eventually weigh on my business portfolio.”


According to him, it is a growing concern that local commercial banks would rather give loans for vehicles than for meaningful items, such as properties.


He therefore advises aspiring entrepreneurs to discipline themselves, as that’s the secret behind keeping one’s finances on the right track.


“Once our youngsters start a business, they tend to prioritise the wrong things like investing in expensive cars, which soon become liabilities, not to mention alcohol and unnecessary parties that eat up a big chunk of one’s savings. There is indeed an open platform for them to run successful businesses and employ fellow youth but they must work hard,” he advises.


The married father of a son notes he is a blessed man who is more determined to grab every opportunity life sways his way. PF