In the span of two years, Cajaka Furniture, a manufacturing business, has reached great length and established itself through innovation, excellence and a business partnership with an Italian manufacturing company, Colombini Casa.
Cajaka Furniture, spearheaded by three partners, Janene van den Heever and Corne Powell while the third one is a silent partner, was opened as a manufacturing company specializing in kiddie’s furniture.
“We started our factory in July 2013, based in Okuryangava manufacturing the kids’ furniture followed by the opening in September that year of our first outlet in the Khomas Groove situated in Khomasdal. As it was a novelty for both of us, it was challenging and exciting. We had to then decide what would be our range and product line.”
The manufacturing company also included adult bedroom furniture such as queen size and double bedroom sets as well as wardrobe or chest of drawers.
Prior to the business venture, Janene and Corne Powell were both part of the corporate world working for Trustco Group International until they decided to test new waters in the entrepreneur world, Janene narrates. “Finding the right partners is essential to starting a business and I was lucky to find the right partners whom I could share the vision of this business with. We did market research, looking at different opportunities. We found that there was a gap in the market for kiddies’ furniture, so we pursued it,” she says.
She adds that to get their business known, the partners invested in a lot of advertising through social media and radio, and they received positive feedback and orders from the market around Namibia for the kiddies’s furniture. Armed with a good team of 14 qualified joiners, Cajaka quickly evolved in the joinery field and from January 2014, started a lot of projects involving kitchen and cupboard installation.
Cajaka Furniture also expanded by opening other outlets in the north in Ongwediva and also in the newly opened Groove mall situated in Klein Kuppe.
Furthermore, Janene noted that last year October, she and an employee traveled to Italy where they visited the Colomibini Casa factory, whereby they got training on the Italian factory system. She was impressed by their work and decided that it was a bonus to partner with them to add an extra touch of exquisite furniture for their kitchen and bedroom furniture offerings.
“What we manufacture locally is very good and affordable and open to most people on the market. We make use of the local material and suppliers which is important but our whole aim is to also offer something with a surplus quality for a higher standard of people who can afford to pay a little more,” she notes.
Thus through the partnership with Colombini Casa, Cajaka receives higher quality products that cannot be offered by local machinery. The quality and the finish product from Colombini Casa are different a quality from the locally made furniture, Janene says.
She emphasizes the colombini product is actually very affordable in Italy and could also be sold cheaper than they are currently selling it. However, the high taxes adds up when the final product is shipped to Namibia which raises the price.
Janene says that the Colombini Furniture has become popular, and they get mostly orders for the kitchen furniture. Although Cajaka has progressed well since its inception, she notes that there remain a lot of challenges hunting the manufacturing businesses.
Some of the challenges consist of the high number of South African related manufacturing businesses present in “The latter works on a credit system basis where people can pay for twelve months or more for the furniture. Cajaka does not offer credit but work on a laybye system basis where you work out months (3-6 months) for payment and receive the product at the end of payment,” she notes.
Janene explains that, “A lot of people come and ask about credit but we do not offer that; although at some point we were thinking of bringing the credit system, we voted against as it can be strenuous work to manage the credit system. On the other side, we know, the credit system is what is driving our people into more debt so we prefer working with lay-bye payment.”
Despite the high presence of South African manufacturing firms in the country, there are still a lot of opportunities for every one. She says, “Namibia is an emerging country and there is a lot of excitement; also as the property market is booming, there is a need of furniture.”
Janene also argues that competition is not necessarily a bad thing, but she insists that it will be preferable if more products were manufactured locally, thus the need for the government to protect the local manufacturing industry.
She further notes that Namibia is still dependent on the SA companies for various reasons, therefore called for more support and strategies from the government to uplift the local manufacturing industry and to also create more jobs locally.
Janene touched on the difficulties of getting funds from local banks for most start up manufacturing firms and recalls that that they initially also struggled to get loan as well but were lucky enough that they managed to secure a collateral.
She also pointed out that there is a lack of skills training in the country and they often get job applications of many youngsters pleading for a chance of work without proper qualification and for a chance to prove that they are capable to do the joinery work.
And as willing as Cajaka furniture is to give opportunities, it is a business that needs to hire skilled people to push the business forward, Janene says.
“There is a need of more training facilities especially in specific areas to allow more young people to become employable, we have a lot of capable people out there but unfortunately there is a lack of trainings,” she notes.
Janene later spoke on how as a business they thrive to offer good customer service ethics, as it is the core of a successful business. They make sure to appoint the right team with the right characteristics such as a good attitude, skills and motivation.
She lamented on how in general, the customer service in Namibia is lagging behind and there is a need to improve the customer service ethics. Only businesses with high customer services become successful.
Going forward the manufacturing firm, which employs about 20 employers, is proud of what they have achieved so far and is looking forward to expanding further.
“We know what we are able to produce and where we are going at this point. We are established and although there are still challenges, we know that we will overcome. Once you start, you need to keep going higher.”
She also advised aspiring entrepreneurs that although there might be a lot of obstacles, one needs to keep persevering; “One needs to take time to build the business. They need to know one needs to keep plugging money in the business to keep it growing. Most new entrepreneurs start buying fancy things such as cars once they get money instead of working within a budget and make sure the business has available funds to keep producing.” Namibia.