The self-made entrepreneur

The self-made entrepreneur

MASERU – WHEN Maine Maine was forced to drop out of university due to lack of fees, he was dejected but not defeated.
Today, the 27-year-old moves in the circles of Lesotho’s business leaders – a sign of how determination to succeed paid off for a man who grew up in poverty and at one time seemed destined for perpetual paucity.
Maine, from Leribe district, has grown from being a tuck-shop owner to becoming the boss of one of the most identifiable supermarkets in Maseru.
Maine is the Chief Executive Officer and the brains behind the rapidly growing Enrich Store, a company wholly owned by Basotho and its shelves are stocked with Basotho produce.

The second born in a family of four siblings, Maine was raised by a single parent. He explains that he has been working hard so that his dreams can come into existence since high school.
His mother was working as a housemaid. Since the age gap between him and his siblings is narrow, there was a time where they were all in high school.
“She had to pay all our fees, and then also look for money to pay for food and other living expenses. It was hard to survive,” Maine said.
Maine says he would work hard to obtain good grades when he was at Hlotse High School in hopes that a good education could help pull his family out of poverty.

“My dream was to be an engineer like the other hard workers who graduated from the school,” he told thepost.
In 2012, after passing his Form E, he applied to the National University of Lesotho (NUL) where he enrolled in the BSc General programme in 2013.
“My wish was to further my studies at Wits University in South Africa so I had to at least complete the first year of studies at the NUL or at least go to Machabeng for a bridging programme,” he said.
Maine said he was admitted at Wits University in 2014, and he officially withdrew from NUL.

“Since I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I had to save throughout the whole of the 2013/2014 academic year so that I could be able to go to Wits University,” he recalled.
Normally, students who were moving from Lesotho’s universities had to pay at least 50 percent of their loan to the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) and they were allowed to pay it in installments.
However, in 2014, he said they were expected to pay the 50 percent at one go.

“I took all my savings to pay the NMDS. However, the money was not enough. I had to pay for medical aid costing M4 000,” Maine said, adding that he was given a month to raise the money.
He said he started knocking on many doors asking for financial assistance and only managed to get M2 000 from his high school teacher.
He said when the deadline passed, authorities gave him a grace period but he still failed to raise that outstanding M2 000.

Maine said it was too late for registration when he eventually raised the money so his dream fell by the wayside.
“However, I still believed that I could still go to the university the following year so I went home to do some business so that I could raise the money for the following year,” said Maine, who needed about M10 000 to enroll for the upcoming academic year.
“I started with a tuck-shop where I was selling airtime, M-Pesa and accessories.”

His tuck-shop was generating about M70 profit a day.
Instead of saving the profits, Maine said he went on investing his money to open other tuck-shops until he had four of them in different places.
“I believe in investing more than saving,” he said.
He adds he was generating a profit of about M360 a day.
Maine said to widen his financial base, he started teaching high school students privately in the evenings and during weekends, helping them with different subjects, especially Mathematics.
He said he had about 250 students and each was paying M25 per month.

“I was making about M6 000 per month.”
He also compiled all the question papers and their answers to come up with a consolidated compilation.
The compilation was so much in demand that he went further to compile one for Mathematics in BSc together with his former classmates.
Maine said looking at the money he was generating, “I decided not to go to school anymore the following year and the love for business gradually grew”.

He said, with the little he had, he would buy data so that he could research more on how to make money.
He said he would research big companies, then conduct deeper research focusing on how they generate their profits and their contribution to the economy.
He said he then found out that the retail sector had the potential to stir up the economy.
“That is where the idea of Enrich was born,” he said.
Maine said he found that most of the big companies are not owned by individuals but by a wide range of shareholders.

He then established Enrich.
“It takes time to single-handedly raise the huge capital but if we come together, we will not only be able to raise the huge capital within a very short period of time but also broaden the ideas and skills to establish stable businesses,” he said.
Maine said their main objective of establishing the company was to contribute to economic growth through the creation of jobs and support local producers to market their products.

He said he realised that there are more creative producers in the country which are still struggling to market their items and ideas.
“If we are able to help them, we will not only be able to create jobs in the Enrich stores but for the local producers hence grow our economy,” he said.
Maine said after establishing the idea in 2019 together with one of his colleagues, Refuoe Monaheng who is the deputy CEO of Enrich, they then had to market the idea and look for investors.
He said around June 2019, they registered the company and continued with the marketing to raise more money.

“We then found a place to rent where we were asked to pay three months’ rent upfront, which was around M400 000. We used the money which we were raising to pay the rent, which was a risky move,” he said.
They ended up paying about M1 million in rentals and salaries before the operation could start, he said.
Maine said they continued marketing the business idea until they raised about M7 million before they could commence operations.
“The capital increased to this point because we had to pay the rent for about eight months before the operation could start,” he said.

Maine mentions that the business has now grown into a medium sized venture, with their outlets also operating butchery and bakery sections.
“We have created about 70 jobs so far and we have about more than 100 local suppliers working with us,” he said, noting that they are now supplying big businesses such as Stadium Food Court.
“The business is in a stable position now,” he said.
He said the team of shareholders includes experts in different fields, which makes the business more stable and reduces the expenses of sourcing expertise from outside when the need arises.

“This business has the potential to grow within a very short period of time since we are now generating profits,” he said.
However, Maine said it was not easy to sit down with each and every person for more than an hour to convince them to buy into the idea.
“Bearing in mind that most of the people we were trying to lure were the victims of forex scams, convincing them to be part of our idea was not an easy thing,” he said.
He said they plan to expand their business to other districts, including establishing a presence at high volume malls “within a very short space of time”.

Maine said Basotho should learn how to work in collaboration instead of opening small businesses individually.
He also urged people earning low salaries and the unemployed to pool their resources and buy shares in local companies.
“I have realised that shares are mostly bought by people who already have money and this is increasing inequality. People should invest the little they have so that they can earn more,” he said.
“Even the Bible says the person who has nothing, even the little that he has will be taken away from him,” he said.

Refiloe Mpobole

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