The journey of the leather industry in Botswana can be traced back to time immemorial, as Botswana is home to over a million cattle.
This obviously presents business opportunities such as processing of meat for sale, butcheries, making leather bags and shoes; as well as making bone bi-products.
Evidently LT Leathers is a manufacturing and distribution business that started its operations in March 2017 at LEA Leather Incubator, Unit 5 who saw a substantial progression in leather applicability that has evolved within the society.
The founders, Lesego Thekiso and Thando Nkosana underwent training at LEA to have the technical skills to produce products using various machinery.
The company diversified from just leather and manufacturers using fabrics & textiles, synthetic leather, canvas and other materials to produce goods including, tents, seat covers, and bags.
“We manufacture and distribute various products through professional processes that include BOBS & ISO Leather standards and Quality Management systems. Our team is equipped with various skills to produce high quality hand crafted products such as Personal Protective wear [ankle guards, aprons, gloves, fire blankets, welders yoke, shoes], we also manufacture leather goods such as bags, belts, hats,” Thekiso says.
Lesego Thekiso from Masunga studied at Monash University in South Africa for an Honors degree in Computer & Information Sciences.
“In my journey of life, I have been involved in a couple of philanthropic activities including: Tebelopele ÔÇô Youth Against Aids, Monash South Africa Volunteering Program, Wineandblankets (RSA organisation) lead Information officer. These opportunities have helped me better myself through the skills and knowledge I have,” she says.
While her business partner Nkosana from Kgari has studied at Monash University as well and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Science.
She also has a background of philanthropy in which she had been involved in several projects including: Volunteering at Old Paths Health Expo’s, Attended: stress management seminar, Life coaching seminars, Locum employee for Daisy R Solutions, Performed [singing] locally and internationally (Malaysia, Australia), Assisted in the facilitation of a team work and team building workshop. She comes from a family which is involved in helping others in their society; her parents have a business that offers training and counselling for personal and marriage challenges.
After completing school, Lesego and Thando says they looked for jobs but could not secure any substantial job opportunity and subsequently decided to do entrepreneurship based on a research they conducted.
“We identified a gap in the leather manufacturing industry of Botswana and took necessary steps to service the gap. There is a low supply of locally manufactured goods and this motivated us to seek for assistance from LEA to acquire the needed skills and applied for the Youth Development Fund which assisted us in setting up our business,” Thekiso added.
She says their business currently has financial challenges which make it difficult to expand it to where they want to see it in future. Adding that the business needs to grow in capacity and have a workshop which it owns to eliminate operational costs [rent] and procure machinery to increase capacity.
However Thekiso says, “At present the company is utilizing the benefits of being a LEA client and this allows us to have access to machinery that the business does not have. We are also saving to procure our own machinery which will be used once we leave the LEA Incubator.”
While giving advice to budding entrepreneurs she says, “Our advice to anyone with an idea is that; take that idea like it is the last thing you have to do on this earth. Put everything behind it and work hard. The road to success is long and you need others to help you reach where you want to be. Register a business; seek for assistance from government and private businesses to help you learn the industry you are going into.”
Meanwhile LT Leathers utters that they would appreciate assistance from government and private sector through procurements of their goods and services.
“We also need assistance with certification of products from BOBS which we currently cannot afford. If the government could subsidies the certification and standardizing of products for SMMEs especially YDF beneficiaries so as to avoid depleting the sponsorship on startup costs and certifications. We would also appreciate assistance on securing commercial land or subsidies warehousing to allow for SMME businesses like ours to afford to expand without having to take loans. We also need help acquiring BQA certification but the application process is beyond our budget, Thekiso continued.
Nevertheless next year LT Leathers will be in its final year of the LEA Leather Incubation Program and with that they want to graduate with top marks.
Thekiso concluded by saying “We also are looking into locations where the business will move to so that it can stand on its own. In five years we will own a warehouse and hope to have a capacity of 15-20 employees whom we have trained in production. We will be export ready and looking into branching out into other countries especially in our Leather Protective wear, shoe care & maintenance, skills development & training.”