Kenewang Aims To Dominate Detergent Industry

Omphemetse Kenewang
Omphemetse Kenewang

FRANCISTOWN: Thirty-three-year-old Maunatlala native, Omphemetse Kenewang aims to take the dishwashing detergent industry by storm in order to curb the influx of foreign products sitting on local shelves.

Trading under Blue-Black Brands as Estelle Labs, the brand manufactures household care products and detergents with dishwashing liquid soap under the label ‘Estelle’, which is currently found on the biggest retail store shelves. Kenewang told Business Monitor recently that Estelle dishwashing liquid is now retailing and the reception from both retail stores and consumers is positive. She added that the local dishwashing liquid is currently available at select stores such as Squaremart, Foodlovers, Choppies, Daily Needs Hyper, Welcome Cash 'n' Carry, Gosiame Supermarket, Thuso Wholesaler, Saverite stores to mention but a few. She said that their aim is to be the countrywide supplier and number one exporter of quality dishwashing soap and other products in the near future. According to the determined entrepreneur, they operate a 1000L/h production capacity, semi-automated plant from water purification through to filling and capping. She stated that apart from conducting their in-house testing to maintain standards for quality control, their products are also tested by the Botswana Bureau of Standards and Botswana International University of Science and Technology.

Furthermore, she indicated that their company’s immediate objectives are to create employment to curb the influx of foreign products on local retail shelves. Kenewang also shared: “When I was out-of-school and unemployed in 2014, I attended the (Local Enterprise Authority) LEA SMME PITSO at the Grand Palm hotel where the then Minister of Trade, Vincent Seretse talked about the import bill standing at something like P63 billion per annum. It was after the seminar that I discovered that there is an influx of foreign products on our retail shelves, something which should be dealt with.” She disclosed that their business was funded by the [then] Ministry of Youth Development, Sports and Culture (MYSC) through the Youth Development Fund in 2014 at Palapye. However, she stated that the money granted was not enough to start a solid business and it was due to that reason that the company faced many challenges in its inception; including escalating industrial rentals plus their production capacity was too small.

The strong-minded entrepreneur added that after the inception of the business they acquired three contracts, one locally and others in Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively. She indicated that the contracts in Zambia and Zimbabwe required 10,000 units each monthly, which was way beyond their production capacity.

Estelle business owner further said: “Due to the high demand, I approached LEA for business advisory services and they advised that the business was underfunded. We then wrote an application to the MYSC for recapitalisation and it reached senior officers who liked the concept, but did not have enough cash to recapitilise.” She added that MYSC then took the matter to Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) who then proposed that she should increase contracts to use as collateral (it was before conditions were relaxed). She stated that while at it someone (name withheld) came onboard as an investor and they bought some production machines and CEDA also managed to source for other machines together with raw materials from China. The go-getter revealed that she completed detergent training in Randburg, South Africa at Kutla Business Incubator through LEA.

Then she met chemists in Asian countries who developed what she learnt as a high grade product based on her research on the African market to match or outdo their competitors who are mostly South African producers. She said she also participated in many competitions in her quest to recapitalise the project and she ended up being a finalist at the 2015 KBL Kickstart completion, which unfortunately couldn’t attract funding but received entrepreneurship development training. She was also Miss Botswana Consumer Fair 2017 finalist and I received the best business pitch.

Kenewang encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to see an opportunity in failure because it is in failure that they develop the spirit of peserverance, tenacity and resilience, and these are attributes that build sustainable enterprises. She also said most youth-owned businesses collapse because of a lack of adequate funding and market access.

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