Woman  carpenter drills her way through

Woman carpenter drills her way through

MASERU – ’Mabonolo Mohapi knew absolutely nothing about carpentry. As a woman, she only dreamt that one day she would get an office job, work from 8am to 5pm and go home and raise the children.
She graduated from Lerotholi Polytechnic with a Diploma in Business Administration in 2013.
But when she saw how her husband, Rankolili Mohapi, was struggling to cope with the challenges of running his carpentry business alone, she threw her weight behind the carpentry business.
That was way back in 2015.

Four years later, Mohapi, who is in her early 30s, has become a key cog in the family business in Ha-Thetsane, providing a feminine touch in what is generally perceived as a man’s territory.
In fact, her reputation as a craftswoman of note is on the rise.
Mohapi says business was really tough when her husband began in 2015. She says she just could not contemplate seeing the business going under.
And to avoid that, she joined the carpentry business, first as a marketer, as she fought to keep the enterprise afloat.
Thankfully, that tough period was soon over and she decided to roll her sleeves and help in the carpentry business proper.

Her husband, Rankolili Mohapi, who was working at one local construction company, quit his job in disgust, incensed by the poor pay and working conditions. He had studied carpentry at Lerotholi Polytechnic.
She says as the business grew, they employed more people. The workers however began to make excessive “demands over pay”.
“They wanted to have an equal share of the profits with us,’’ she says.
That is why she thought she should not just limit herself to marketing but get her hands dirty through carpentry work.
“I needed to do what they are doing so that I could weigh if they really deserved the kind of money they were demanding,” she says.

Mohapi says she never did any carpentry work even when growing up. She also never imagined that one day she would be a carpenter.
“I knew nothing about carpentry. I did not even know how to fix a mere wooden door until my husband introduced it to me,’’ she says.
But forced by circumstances, Mohapi threw everything into it to learn the trade.
“I was so determined to see the family business grow and I pushed very hard to see it thrive,” she says.
“Every morning when I woke up I would tell myself that my gender cannot channel my life, I am a woman carpenter.’’

Of course it was tough at first to know how to put together the pieces. But perseverance and hard work eventually paid off.
Although it was tough at first, she considered it much better than to sit at home, waiting for a phone call for an office job.
“I can now do everything alone in the absence of my husband,’’ she says.
The last four years have been really good business-wise, with the company able to cover its running costs on a month-by-month basis and make a healthy profit at the end of the financial year.

The Mohapis are even paying the school fees of one Form D student as their way of giving back to the community.
Their customer base has since ballooned with new customers coming in every month, she says.
“We have more samples of our previous work, so we don’t just pitch to customers but we let our work do the marketing for us,” she says.
“Since we are dealing with house furniture, most of the female customers could not trust my husband on decorative works but they now believe that my presence will add more colour to our work,” she says.
Mohapi says in the beginning, they had a tough time replacing broken equipment because of cash-flow issues but that has since been sorted, thanks to a healthy balance in their bank account.
“We are able to replace broken equipment quickly,” she says.

Mohapi says their biggest challenge at present is the competition they are getting from Chinese businessmen.
The Chinese furniture suppliers are giving them a run for their money.
She says they are not yet going for the big contracts but are going for small contracts where customers pay a deposit and complete the payment when the job is done.
The business works with lamination, manufacturing of wall units, ceilings, and tiles and stone cleaning.

Refiloe Mpobole


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