Tuesday, January 25, 2022

From Sales Rep to Glass Business Owner, meet Peter Mokumako – Lobatse Aluminum and Glass MD

For the past 31 years, the Founder and owner of Lobatse Aluminium and Glass (PTY) LTD, Peter Mokumako has dedicated his time and passion into building this company which serves the needs of many. His passion is working with glass. A passion founded when he felt it was time for him to leave formal employment and start his own business.

He worked as a Sales Rep at Broadhurst Motors selling Nissan cars in Gaborone before starting his business. After years of working, he then felt it was time for him to expand and diversify his portfolio. That is when he met a new mentor in Maun.

Peter recalls that during those years, every day at lunchtime when his co-workers went out to grab their lunch he would stay behind and observe his ‘mentor’ who was working with glass, aluminum and putty.

One of the days the mentor posed a very important question to Peter. The intention by the mentor was to gauge Peter’s interest in learning and when he said yes he invited him to Johannesburg, South Africa where he was based. Peter says he then took a month’ leave from work to go and learn from this man. He taught him how to handle and take care of glass and a lot other more.

“I was taught that you can’t just wake up angry and think you can work with glass because a lot can go wrong if you don’t handle it with care.”, Peter recalled recently in an interview.

After sometime, Peter decided to quit his job and went back for rigorous training with the mentor whom he says was very patient with him until he felt he was ready to open his shop.

“I was tired of the paper work that came with being a sales rep. I wanted to start working with my hands and fully utilize my abilities. And also formal employment has no guarantees so I had to think about my future.” He buttresses.

He started and self-funded his business in 1990 with a sum of P10, 000 in Lobatse. He has not sought funding from anywhere, something which he says might change because he wants to buy more advanced machinery to cut and polish glass. They specialize in selling glass, aluminium frames, putty and they also fit and install for customers.

Peter says business was booming in the 90s and that nowadays there is a lot of competition even though he is not complaining because it is good for the economy.

He says he has qualms with some Batswana who do not take enough time to learn glass.

“They do not know how to measure the quality or authenticity of glass. When there are heavy rains or hail storms most of these imported glasses from outside the continent break. It’s rare to hear that glass manufactured in South Africa has broken due to these natural disasters.” He notes.

Peter says he keeps samples for his customers so he can explain to them the difference. For him it’s not just about taking money but it’s also about building rapport and educating customers.

Every morning he comes in the shop to attend his customers. He usually gets calls the night before from customers making orders everyday even on weekends. He works every day and gets the satisfaction from knowing his clients are happy.

He says challenges from working with such a fragile commodity is breakage. This happens a lot when the glass is handled by workers because sometimes they do not know the proper way of handling it no matter how much you try to teach them.

Covid-19 has affected his business like everyone else. Manufacturers have also hiked prices. And as a retailer he says he cannot just increase prices willy-nilly because he has to think of his customers first and this results in him compromising his profits.

He says they engage manufacturers in South Africa about these things but it’s not always easy because their contention is that their raw material suppliers are hiking up prices and they do the same to cushion their businesses. And some of the raw materials come from Botswana.

Peter believes politics in Botswana are standing in the way of people with capabilities to go into manufacturing glass. He says if this barrier could be eliminated this country could go far because it would be easy to have access to funding from government and other private institutions amongst other things.

Competition in Lobatse which largely comes from wholesalers does not scare him. He says what puts him above the rest is the fact that he knows and understands glass. He does not put huge profit margins on his glass. His value proposition is selling large volumes of glass which has proven to work for him over the years.

His doors remain open for business after 31 years because of his principles and ethics. He does not want to find himself entangled in corruption.

His biggest clientele and support comes from private individuals across Botswana and a few government departments.

He works his wife, Poppy Mokumako and five other support staff who he says work on a rotational basis since Covid-19 measures were put in place.

His doors are open to young people who are passionate and committed to learning. He wants to leave a legacy behind.

Lobatse Aluminium and Glass is located at Woodhall 2, shopping complex. Contacts: +267 73810810 or +267 71526260

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