Women with brilliant business ideas should not be lulled into complacency by any job security but act to bring those ideas to fruition.
This is the advice Namupa Nengola, the co-founder of Taneta Investment family business, gives to Namibians if the country is to move towards achieving its development goals.
Nengola is a qualified teacher who started the business of producing cold-pressed marula oil-based cosmetics products for export, as well as for sale locally with her husband and three daughters.
“The oil can also be used for consumption because marula oil is edible,” said Nengola at their business premises at Bokamoso business incubation centre in Katutura.
The enterprise also helps to uplift 200-230 women in the rural Ohangwena region where Taneta Investment gets raw materials. They produce about three tonnes of oil a year.
“We work with rural women from villages in Ohangwena region who use traditional knowledge to process the marula fruit, and we combine their knowledge and modern techniques to produce quality marula oil.
“The oil is organic certified for sale in the United States and European Union markets,” Nengola said, flanked by her daughter Nelao Nengola.
She said for certification, they are required to train the women to harvest the fruit sustainably, to protect the environment, litter handling and ensuring the fields from where they harvest marula fruits are free from harmful chemicals.
Nengola said she was inspired to start the business by the successes of her mother and grandmother with marula oil and her desire to make something out of it too.
“I grew up in an area with abundant marula trees and I wanted to add value to the abundant indigenous raw material to also help rural women earn an income,” she said.
To ensure their oil is good quality, they fetch the kernels from the villages themselves.
They said they are happy with the success stories that come from the marula sales like women buying clothes for their children or sending them to university.
According to Nelao, the company makes face oil, hair oil and body oil.
“We are one of the first companies to transform edible marula oil into cosmetic products,” said Nelao, who does the company’s marketing.
Besides exports, the company also sells locally and its products are found in pharmacies, the duty-free shop at the airport, as well as at the green market in Klein Windhoek.
“We also sell the oil in bulk to companies who repackage and sell it as edible oil or use it as raw material for other cosmetic products,” Nelao said, adding that they market their products through various social media platforms and are in the process of listing them on Amazon for the United States market.
Nengola said one of their biggest challenges is getting working capital because ensuring a good quality product, finding the market and sustaining the product cost money.
“I also think support from the government for SMEs is [negatively] affected by red tape. There are many institutions meant to assist SMEs that appear good on paper but in practice they do not deliver what they promise,” she said.
“We also face challenges of shipping costs when exporting overseas, as these might be discouraging to some customers. In addition, we do not have a reliable payment gateway with overseas customers,” said Nengola, who said the business was self-funded although they later acquired a small loan.
She said the Covid-19 lockdowns affected the business negatively as they could not send products overseas with no flights allowed, and locally people had little disposable income.
She, however, said the regional potential is huge, especially in South Africa, and because of the Africa free trade protocol, they were getting more enquiries from the region and beyond.
Nengola said the recent Namibia-US trade forum was an eye-opener because it brought government agencies, the business sector and investors under one roof where many contacts were made.
“There was genuine willingness to work together. We are making follow-ups on that,” she said.
Nengola said their future plans for the women-focused business include expanding production and developing a wider range of marula oil products.
She said Namibians must think out of the box and magnify the value of whatever resources are at their disposal.
“Let us use our own products instead of imported oils whose quality we do not know. I would like to ask leaders how many Namibian products they use in their homes. Let’s buy Namibian,” she said.