With eight children and their grandmother back home in Changate looking to him to put bread on the table, Busang Chuchu was aware that the salary he earned as a hardware store assistant was not sufficient.
Pushed to his financial limits, he then decided to open a carpentry business in Old Naledi where he has been renting a one roomed house since 1995. Chuchu would take time between his work shifts to push his business.
In 2005, after ten years of employment at a hardware store, he threw caution to the wind and decided to work full time on his business. Chuchu now makes a living carving furniture from benches, beds, picket fence, to dog cabins using pallets he buys from truck drivers.
Although he also buys the material from building material suppliers like hardware stores, it is cheaper to buy from truck drivers. “I worked half-a-day shifts so I would spend the other half to work here on my workshop,” Busang said.
“But I realised I was making more money from ‘my business than I was at my workplace.” He told Arts & Society that working at the hardware was more of a hand-to-mouth job.
“I didn’t make enough to save.” Chuchu now stays with his nephew in the one roomed house he used to share with his eight children and their mother before he sent them to his home village in Changate.
He said like any business he has his bad days. “There were times when I would go for a week without a single sale.” However he said there were also periods when he sold every single day. He said on a good day he could make as much as P1, 500. Located on the road that bypasses Old Naledi on the south leading up to Commerce, Game City, and Lobatse, most of his customers are passers-by. Operating without a proper license, Chuchu complains of harassment from the city council. “Sometimes you come in the morning to find all your stock has been confiscated,” he told Arts & Society.
He said they would be expected to pay a fine in order to get their stock back. “But sometimes we don’t have the money so we let go of the stock and start from scratch.” Chuchu employs four people including his nephew and pays them according to the sales for that particular month. He would love to own a proper workshop but he says it pays to run the business along the road because the place is more convenient for his customers. Chuchu’s is just one of the many pallet businesses that have sprouted along the Old Naledi bypass.