Winners never quit!

Winners never quit!

Own Correspondent

MAFETENG – It is Lesotho’s own online shopping centre and, who knows if it won’t rival Amazon and Alibaba at some point in time?

The National University of Lesotho (NUL) educated technology whizzes, Lebohang Handy and Mpho Ramatabooe, are the brains behind an online shopping centre based in Mafeteng called Shopa Lesotho.

Their enterprise, which delivers goods to your home, has just won the Bacha Entrepreneurship funding that catapulted the company to new heights, thanks to Standard Lesotho Bank, Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO) and the Lesotho Revenue Authority.

Mafeteng is known for good music. But times are shifting. It will soon be also known for its tendency to produce technology-minded youths.

That is, thanks to the youth’s ability to take advantage of their education at the feet of distinguished NUL educators.

“I and my business partner did Computer Science and Computer Systems Networks at the NUL,” Lebohang Handy says.

The two say their villages are next to each other.

“That made it easy to discuss IT a lot and we were both determined to make our own mark,” Handy says.

“Actually, we wanted to create a programme or an app that would be used by people of all ages as a business.”

One day a brilliant idea popped in. They had observed how they sometimes had to go shopping even when it was raining.

Was it the way it should be?

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Some see things as they are and ask, why? Others see things as they should be and ask, why not?”

Perhaps, taking a page from Shaw, they saw online shopping as an answer and asked, why not?

The idea was good. People of all ages have one thing in common. They shop. According to Handy, they immediately moved into action.

“When we started, we had nothing but ourselves, laptops and time. We are convinced that in business, we should never wait until there is money.”

Ivan Turgenev, a Russian novelist once laid down this rule which they were all too willing to learn from, “If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.”

From the onset, their intentions were to meet international norms of quality. So they made sure that their site was as good as it could be.

Then they approached shops all over Lesotho, asking them to advertise their products on their site.

“We would profile each product they sold, even taking its picture and other important specifications.”

Shrewd businessmen, they went to the businesses, “we did not wait for them to come to us.”

Sooner or later, they would be forced to change their strategy. That is business, isn’t it? They had discovered two challenges. It was not easy to confirm if the stock they had on their website was still there at shops by the time a customer decided to buy.

Also, continually updating information from many shops scattered countrywide proved expensive.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,” Winston Churchill once said.

At this point, they could either be pessimists or Churchillian optimists. They chose the latter. That is why we have them here today, sharing their experience.

So they decided to move from selling products of others to buying, storing and selling their own products online. But they maintained and strengthened their unique selling point — online shopping and home deliveries.

That was not easy. Switching from a service business where there is little investment to a business where they had to store goods was going to be tricky. However, within no time, the company was getting its footing.

“It is never perfect, but business is now performing to our satisfaction,” Handy says.

Here is how they do business. Customers order through their website, through phone, cell or landline, and through Whatsapp. In terms of deliveries, they have captured Mafeteng.

For districts outside Mafeteng, they take only big orders to cater for transport costs.

How did the young gentlemen, who are no different from you, take on such a mammoth task?

For aspirant youths out there, it’s time to stop and take a free lesson. You will like it.

First they knew the value of starting small, “we sell things such as soaps, yeast, paraffin and even salt.”

The idea is to be patient as Basotho adapt to a strange idea of online business before selling more complex products.

Second, they knew they were trained as software developers, not technicians, “we have always wanted to do what we were trained to do, rather than maintain software programmes developed by others.”

Third, they know why NUL was good for them.

“We often lament lack of resources at the NUL compared to opulent South African universities. But the very lack of resources has helped us to learn to create something out of nothing, an invaluable skill.”

Last, they knew that “persistence pays”.

“There was a time when we did not know where our next rent would come from, month by month, but we never quit.”

If Napoleon Hill, in all his wisdom, were still alive, he would summarise the whole thing in six words, “Winners never quit, quitters never win”.

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