An entrepreneurial journey from muffins to low-cost housing

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Prof Dr Rainer Trede

Leena Haivera is a 24 years old female entrepreneur from Windhoek. The last article about successful entrepreneurs from Katutura I dedicate to her as an example that even really disadvantaged Namibians can make it independently of their background and drawbacks in business ventures if they are passionate and optimistic about their businesses.

Ups and downs of Leena’s businesses like a roller coaster

Leena is the only child of a single mother, who had a small stand selling fruit and vegetables in Katutura for survival. She started already in grade 10 to produce and sell chips, muffins and Russians to help her mother with taxi fare to school and to contribute to the small income of her mother. This gave Leena a first feeling of what is entrepreneurship.

In 2014 she enrolled to study hairdressing but did not manage to go through the final exams because of lack of funds.  She then started working for a salon and later became a manager there. In August 2015 she opened her salon in Windhoek North renting in the backyard of someone. However, this business failed because of her limited knowledge regarding business management in particular financial management and marketing. But she did not want to give up becoming an entrepreneur.

Therefore, she worked for a small company as an assistant office administrator. Not only to gain some income but – even more importantly – she wanted to learn how to run her own business, which is easier to observe in a small than in a larger company since even an assistant office administrator gets insights of most of the business. 

Also, she started to learn from books and the internet as much as possible about running a business. As a result, she was the best of all participants in my training programme, even better than the few trainees with academic education.

Haivera explained: “Since school, I always wanted to become an entrepreneur. Hence at work, I was always restless, because I felt I could do more than just an 8-5 job. This drive led me to leave my job in March 2017 and explore business opportunities. I started production of perfumes on a full-time basis. Still restless and searching for more business ideas, I founded a salon in November 2017. Since the competition is very tough, I decided to add something special, which was selling the perfumes as a retailer from the salon and also providing unemployed people with larger quantities to sell on their own, and thus gaining some income for survival.”

This business was first growing but stagnated with the economic slowdown in Namibia already before the Corona crisis. Since perfumes as a luxury product did not show growth prospects, Leena was exploring in addition to other business options. Finally, she selected muffins. During the training and mentoring programme, conducted by my company, DECOSA, in cooperation with Team Namibia and sponsored by the Finnish Embassy, I asked her: “Why did you select muffins? They are produced at every road in Katutura. You have to face enormous competition.”

She responded: “Prof., you are right, but I have learnt from you that marketing is as important, if not more important than production. I have a new marketing concept targeting the Central Business District of Windhoek”.

Indeed her sales did grow continuously, but the profit was a major drawback; it was very limited. Leena elaborated: “Luckily I learnt during the training also cost and price calculation. Although I did not like this topic, it rescued my business. I could not increase my prices, but I found out that my drawings were too high. I reduced them considerably.”

Thereafter, the business was growing. Leena started to bake the muffins from 3 p.m to 3 a.m to have sufficient quantities at 8 o’clock to be sold by her and finally eight salespeople.

The happiest day of Leena’s life was the reason for Leena’s next drawback. She married Bartolomeus Haivera who works for Namibia Defence Force as a pilot in Grootfontein. She stated: “On the one hand love and happiness are more important than financial income and on the other hand I was sure I will identify new business opportunities also in the small town of Grootfontein.”

She started to offer training to micro-businesses. The interest was huge but the people did not want or could not pay for it. Thus she started to sell nail products and offers nail training. The profit she invested in muffin production and since the corona crisis in sanitizers with value addition. Now after living over one year in Grootfontein the business is running again.

Leena’s business vision: Low-cost housing

Despite her current success, Haivera is still restless, not satisfied. She was always dreaming to find more socially oriented business options. Already in 2015, she identified the need for low-cost housing, since 40% of Namibians live in shacks. She studied over three years the production of really low-cost houses from containers and stayed for 3 months in Cape Town where such houses are fairly common. An implementable concept and a bankable business plan are available. These houses offered in two sizes (1 bedroom or 2 bedrooms) are affordable with about 30% of the prices of the so-called low-cost houses offered by the National Housing Enterprise. The houses shall replace shacks with their advantages of separated rooms, safety, insulation, long lifetime and mobility.  Really unique is mobility. Considering the huge number of people, who work in Windhoek coming from the North. When they are going back home they can take their house with from Katutura on a low bed truck.

This project is fully in line with the priorities of the Government, by the improvement of housing, helping disadvantaged people, development of manufacturing SMEs with value addition and empowerment of Namibian female entrepreneurs.

So far Leenas’s vision to focus her business on basic needs of the majority of Namibian people did not become reality, because she could not mobilise the required funding of N$ 250 000 due to lack of collateral. She said: “I will never give up because this business is in line with my passion. Passion for changing lives, passion towards our country and putting it on the map of growth, passion for homes and families.”

Lessons to learn from Leena

Although our training and mentoring programme has been finalized I am still assisting Leena Haivera since I believe in the low-cost housing and her entrepreneurial drive. Every micro-entrepreneur could learn from her. Always research your business ideas carefully, don’t expect immediate success, when the business starts to make profit limit your drawings to a minimum and invest the profit in your business…and most important never give up even not after failures.

Leena Haivera can be contacted under 081-8805317 or alexandraleena95@gmal.com

*Prof Dr Rainer Trede is the Managing Member of Development Consultants for Southern Africa (DECOSA) CC.  He is reachable under decosa@africaonline.com.na

This article was first published in the New Era