Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Meet Lobatse’s first indigenous toilet paper makers

If a database of women owned enterprises in Botswana was to be made, Kopano Toilet Paper manufacturing would surely make the cut.

The company is owned by three women – Dineo Phuthologang (70), Oaitse Daniel (58) and Lydia Daniel (52).

The trio built Kopano Manufacturing since the year 2014 and has been holding on to despite the many challenges they are faced with along the seven year old journey.

The company’s birth can be traced to a government poverty eradication initiative under the department of Gender Affairs in the ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The program meant to assist individuals or groups to graduate from abject poverty through sustainable income generation and employment initiatives, capacity building and skills development.

The trio says it decided on toilet paper because one of the directors – Oaitse Daniel had worked in a toilet paper manufacturing company before. Given Daniel’s vast experience the then new business partners decided to piggy bank on that. At the time Lobatse town where the business is based had no manufacturing plant owned and operated by indigenous Batswana.

Kopano Manufacturing was funded by the Poverty Eradication Program in 2014 with P270 000 to buy machinery in South Africa. They also got training from the same company that supplied them.

The three women recalls that it was really tough for them when they were starting due to high rental fees. Their angel came in the form of former member of Lobatse Town council – Lawrence Botanka. Botanka offered them space in his property and allowed them to operate for six months without paying rent.

They were further assisted by the Lobatse Town Council with a loan to purchase stock.

Fast forward to 2020, Covid-19 also took a hard knock on them but supplying Primary schools in Lobatse has been able to assist them make a turnaround and business looks promising once again.

The three are looking to expand their business and are also hoping to get bigger space so they could further expand their operations. They want to get a machine that makes toilet paper cores, sanitary pads and cleaning detergents.

One of their major concerns is the way the Lobatse Town council doesn’t seem to have a provision to allow only the Lobatse business community to be the sole beneficiaries when it comes to bidding for particular tenders.

“We wish there was a law that could bind councils to buy or award tenders to residents only just like it’s happening in other regions like Boteti. There are so many government institutions in Lobatse that could get toilet paper from us.” Said Daniel.

They are however grateful for the continuous support they keep receiving from the District Commissioner’s office as well as from Member of Parliament, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka.

These toilet paper manufactures also revealed that they are not yet BOBS certified which they believe is one of their impediments when it comes to supplying wholesalers and other retail outlets.

“We have tried approaching wholesalers in Lobatse but they want a BOBS certificate before they can start buying from us.” Noted Phuthologang.

They had failed their initial Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) test but they say they were not too far from the mark but due to Covid-19 it hasn’t been easy to resubmit their samples.

They however point out that the previous owner of Choppies Cash & Carry was their biggest support system as he used to buy their toilet paper in bulk for his wholesale before he closed shop despite not being BOBS certified.

These women are adamant to see their business grow because they want to give back to the community by creating employment.

They are committed to this business because they believe it can work and they do not want to disappoint the government after funding them with a lot of money to alleviate themselves from poverty. They are hopeful that their business will rise as they want to see transformation in their personal lives too.

They used to get their toilet paper supply from South Africa but due to transportation challenges they have since resorted to local suppliers which they say is not consistent at times. One thing for sure is that they do not want to compromise on quality when it comes to procuring their material because they do not want to disappoint their customers. Contact 72734111 or 72685142 to purchase Kopano toilet paper.

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