Diverging career paths lead to business acumen

By Philani Nkomo
October 2015
Women in Business

Sixty-three year old Ingrid Demasius has proven the notion that age is nothing but a number by successfully switching career paths and establishing her own bookstore after having worked for 36 years partly as a medical technologist and as a marketing executive.

Her career trajectory has always been switching directions, as she studied as a Medical Technologist before ending up working in a company’s marketing department.

“I had more things than I would have had at 35, and my belief is that it is never too late to start your business. If I had started at around 24, I would have made thousands of mistakes, which I did not make at 53,” she philosophised.

Through her various careers, Demasius acquired enough experience to set the foundation needed to establish her own business. Instead of remaining in a field she was not passionate about, she followed her heart and applied the skills she had learned along the way to be successful.

Although she had relevant qualifications in the medical laboratory industry, she says the academic side of laboratories was too far removed from grassroots’ problems, and this did not appeal to her. She also said that medical technology is a strict and routine job that lacks interpersonal contact and a scope for creativity.

The only way out was to go into selling laboratory equipment, which she enjoyed. She also says one can use his or her own initiative, drive and people skills in this field. This stint in her career was followed by a four-year spell managing a diagnostic laboratory.

Thereafter, she returned to the scientific side once again and worked on selling, marketing and managing equipment. After being involved in many levels of the field, the next logical step was to apply the skills she had gained and run a business of her own. “One of my dreams was to have my own business, and being the free, independent spirit that I am, I wanted to prove that I can do it,” she beams.

Demasius Publications was established in 2005. Passionate about reading, she says that books are connected to intellectuals and interesting people. She also says that the business has great potential as books are not like food with a short shelf-life.

Getting her business off the ground was a roller-coaster ride for Demasius. She started off in a garage, and was there for three years. In the first year, there was a burglary, and she lost her computer. She also had to travel every long weekend to visit her customers at lodges, which added more salt into the wound.

“In the beginning, you do everything yourself because you cannot afford help, and you need a positive outlook and lots of energy. You have got to motivate yourself. You constantly have to look for new customers and new products, as the market is not static,” Demasius says.

Demasius implemented an immense amount of strategy to get her business off the ground. Although the name, Demasius Publications, sounds like a publishing house, she was not a publisher, but a marketer. Demasius would get books from people, read them thoroughly and then decide whether she would sell them or not.

“I would read books, and see if they suited the market. It would be a waste of time marketing a book which would sell 10 copies only,” she stresses.

Luckily, Demasius managed to overcome those challenges and turned them into milestones. After successfully being in business for 10 years, she says that her bookstore has been the biggest highlight of her life.

“A lot of people start with huge ideas. They spend money doing marketing and setting up websites, and then they do not reach their market and close down,” she noted.

She runs her bookstore efficiently and now employees two people. One does the administrative work and the other works as a handyman helping with the movement of books and other office equipment.

Demasius has dedicated a lot of time and energy to her bookstore and it has reaped great results. Her satisfied customers have even become some of her friends.

Some of the successes Demasius has experienced over the past 10 years include attending the Cape Town Book Fair for the first time in 2006, participating in the organising committee of KRIT, an Afrikaans literary group, in 2008 and bringing renowned South African authors Antjie Krog and Andre Brink to Namibia.

“I enjoyed the last 10 years of my working life the most, as I was the master of my own destiny. If you are your own boss, you work much harder. A free spirit has to work hard and take all the risks. Money does not just flow in, it is not all plain-sailing like people think,” she stated.

Demasius has proven that age certainly is just a number and that hard work can make attaining dreams possible at any stage of life.