The woman who goes ‘extra mile’ in clearing industry

10 Jan 2010

At first glance, she strikes you as one who does not speak much; the type of woman who speaks only when necessary.
Although this might be the case, she has an aura about her that reveals her business oriented nature.

It is probably in the way she carefully chooses the words she utters. It is easy to see how she has gained international recognition after being nominated for a worldwide award for the United Nations’ Best Woman in Business.
Her office is spacious and homely, what with the pictures of her family on the walls and fresh flowers on her work desk.

Her phone rings constantly. Sitting here with the gracious Joy Simakane, it is hard to believe that this is a woman who started from nothing and now owns Extramile Express, a clearing company whose head offices are based in Botswana and has branches in the UK and South-Africa, the classic rags to riches story. Simakane’s story is that of how patience and perseverance can reap positive results for those SMMEs looking to expand. At only 36, Simakane runs a successful company that is already competing with the best in her industry. Extramile excels in customs clearance, freight forwarding, and warehousing, bonded warehouse, and messenger delivery services amongst other services. “Back in 2004, when I started this company, I had nothing, I had no savings and I was not from a well –off family. I had just quit my job and I had no idea how I was going to survive, it was really tough but fortunately I didn’t have to look far, the business idea for custom clearance stroke one day when I was at the border ,it was easy to dwell on it because it was something close to heart,” explains Simakane.

Before she started her company, Simakane had just quit her job as Contract Manager at the now dissolved African Express where she had worked for close to ten years.

“The work that I do is mostly based on the experience I have gathered over the years. The formal education I received was up until I finished my junior certificate level at Madikwe junior secondary school. After that I took up a number of different business courses, amongst them, a Management course, freight and forwarding course, and a sales and marketing course,” she says.

Her journey with the customer clearing business dates as far back as 1993, when she was recruited by IDS Couriers.
Her year long stay at the company was interrupted when she decided to move onto MDS couriers in 1994 where she worked as a customer service agent for the Johannesburg branch.

In 1995, Simakane began work for African Express in Maun where she was given the post of Branch supervisor.
Come 1996, the dynamic Simakane, was recruited by yet another clearing company DHL as a customer service agent.

Still in the same year, she left DHL for her former employer, African Express where she was promoted and allotted the post of customer service supervisor.

In 1997, the then 24 year old Simakane left her post at African Express to work for Federal Express as a Customer Service Agent.

Her on and off relationship with African Express caught up with her in 1998 when she once again landed herself a job as a customer service manager, with an increased salary of course. In 1999 she was promoted to Contracts Manager where she dealt with high ranking clientele such as Barclays Bank, First National Bank, Sky Net worldwide, and Gaborone Private Hospital amongst others. All the African express branches were reporting to her. “I held the same position until 2004, where I was excelling in my job because by that year, the turnover of all the clients I dealt with was about P2 million a month, it was at this stage that I started to feel unappreciated as a company assert, when I applied for higher positions I was rejected even though I had more than enough experience, I decided to leave because I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to work for anyone anymore even though I had no idea what I would do next,” Simakane explains.

Simakane’s idea to venture out by herself was inspired by the time she went to the border and saw that customer clearance was an unnecessarily long procedure for drivers coming into Botswana, especially because there was no clearing agent in Botswana. She needed about P2 000 to bond at the bank for her clearing license but she could barely make ends meet, her parents had to step in and give her the P2 000 because they believed in their daughter s capability.

According to Simakane, her mother had to lend money from different people so that she could add up the money she needed to get a license.

After that, there was no turning back; her business started picking up in 2007 after months on end of struggling. Currently, her company is rated amongst the best in the business.

She claims that big companies are now calling her company asking for her services.

Simakane says that her success would not have come about without the support of her husband, Goodwill, who is also a shareholder in the company.