FRANCISTOWN: Watch out international backpack companies! This is the message that three Selebi-Phikwe women entrepreneurs and backpack enthusiasts are sending to giant international brands.
Safirah Tapala, Barulaganyi Modise and Margaret Shashani, through their business, Elegant Designs, are determined to diversify the economy of Selebi-Phikwe, which is heavily dependent on the BCL mine for survival. The Business Monitor caught up with Tapala at the Northern Letlhafula Cultural Festival that was held at Tatisiding where she had pitched her stall. The stall was pulling crowds, and within a short period of time, she had sold many of her products.
Tapala said the trio came up with different creative ideas that they used to form the business in order to escape from poverty.
She explained that in 2011 they sourced seed funding from Gender Affairs department to start the business.
“The Gender Affairs department funded us with P159,000 under the women empowerment scheme,” Tapala said.
She explained that before venturing into business, they worked for a company called Bag Pack for over five years , and this is where they acquired the skills and experience. In fact, it is partly the reason they acquired the grant as officers at the department were impressed with their unique idea, Tapala noted.
“We were further given funding
According to Tapala, their products include backpacks, rucksacks, knapsacks, shoulder packs, camping bags, and duffel bags, among others.
The entrepreneurs, who are aspiring to conquer the international market, said they get their material for the bags from a South African company called Enterprise.
The type of material they use to make the bags is called Canvas and Six hundred D.
“Our products are different from our competitors’ because they are enclosed with a lining called dry mark which makes them water proof. We also offer embroidery services for customer convenience. Our products have long shelf-life,” Tapala added.
She said their customers also enjoy the convenience of making special orders, adding that some of them come as far as Kasane to purchase school bags for their children.
She also encouraged aspiring business people to be passionate about what they do and be cooperative when they share a business like theirs.