The burning desire for financial freedom inspired Chawada Nthusang to respond to the government’s poverty eradication call for beneficiaries. Back in 2016, she put on shoes she wasn’t even sure she would fit in and ventured the entrepreneurship path. Her business recently got a boost from local authorities to provide close to 1000 learners with school shoes. This week, GP caught up with her for a brief chat about her work.
What are your full names, and the nature of business you are in?
I am Chawada Nthusang from Zoroga village. I am a 37 year old woman in shoe making, belt and bag designs business. I am currently based in Nata.
What type of shoes do you manufacture?
I make school shoes, sandals, formal and casual footwear for women and men. I also lace or decorate ladies’ shoes using African print fabric. I mend shoes as well; that is inserting broken soles and stoppers, in addition to repairing worn out shoes.
How did you start and why this particular business?
I started shoemaking in 2016, after seeing a call for applications for business funding under government’s poverty eradication programme. Though I didn’t know a thing about the craft back then, I saw the call as an opportunity to learn a new skill. I realised that the fact that there were not many women in this business gave me an advantage over other applicants. Besides that, shoemaking is generally not a popular business in our country, so I had this conviction that I will receive financial support from government. I made the funding list and was sent for leatherwork training in Dibete under the auspices of the Department of Animal Production. Thereafter I received P15, 000 to purchase start-up material. At the time I was based in Zoroga and upon training competition my business advisor at Local Enterprises Authority (LEA) advised that I relocate to Nata in order to be closer to the market since sales were very low back home in Zoroga.
How did the training equip your shoe making skills?
I was taught the practical side of leather works. I did hands on shoe, belt and bags design and manufacturing. It was quite an eye opener because I just had the will but no hands on experience.
What inspires your shoe designs?
At times I visualise designs and I go on to draw the patterns. Most of the designs I picture in my mental eye come out perfectly nice. So I guess the adage you have to dream it first is somehow true.
What aspect of design do you pay special attention to?
The design/pattern is the foundation, actually it gives the shoe shape, so it has to be well done. Then the masking tape pattern has to be well cut along the lines or drawing of the design. One other thing that makes shoes to standout is colour. A mix of good colour combinations usually as per clients’ specifications deserves a special eye.
Who is your market at the moment?
My biggest clients are students. Initially it was individuals buyers but this year Tutume Sub- District Council has awarded me a tender to supply over 800 school shoes to learners under the social welfare programme. Sua Town Council had contacted me but since I work alone I felt I wont be able to meet their deadline. Individual buyers are also coming forth, for both men and women footwear as well as those who want their shoes fixed. As for other products like belts, I used to get business for guesthouses before COVID-19 broke out.
How has the product been received in the market?
The product is well received. Since I started promoting the shoes through social media platforms such as Facebook I have been receiving many calls from potential clients even from abroad. I realise there is potential to penetrate the export market.
If any, what business expansion plans do you have?
I want to brand my products because at the moment they are just sold without any branding. A number of retail outlets have contacted me and have suggested that I attach a brand. I have also realised branding is an essential component of marketing and product differentiation. So, I am working on that. Moreover, I have been advised by LEA to consider leather tanning as it could enhance my business as well as maximize profits as I currently use a lot of money to buy processed leather. The problem is that the machinery which is sold in China- is quite expensive. My ultimate goal is to open a shoe manufacturing company. Shoemaking is not a popular business in Botswana hence they are not many skilled professionals. I have been looking to engage one shoemaker as I currently work alone and unable to meet demand like it was the case in the Sua Town Council
tender; but finding additional labour has proved to be daunting task.
Thank you for your time Chawanda.