Thato Kenaope (33) from Goo Moremi Village, Tswapong is the owner of a newly established Miam Pharmacy. The company is 100 percent youth owned business operating in Gaborone with two branches at Extension 2 and 12. The first pharmacy in Extension 2 started its operations in October 2021. The other branch in Extension 12 started its operations in February 2022. The company has to date employed 2 pharmacists,2 pharmacy technicians, all whom are Batswana youth.
Kenaope was sponsored by NACA to study Pharmacy at Nelson Mandela University, completing her Bachelor of Pharmacy (Bpharm) in 2013. She has been practicing as a pharmacist in the different sectors of pharmacy ever since.
She says her interest in Pharmacy was to understand diseases better and understand their treatment options. Adding that opening her own retail, was mostly to share knowledge with her patients as much as she can, having identified that most people lack information on medicines and their use.
The pharmacist says apart from this, a lot of people around her displayed the need for help with medication, information on medication, where to find products, how to take certain medications, self-medication etc. All this made her decide to open Miam pharmacy which was mainly to provide be-spoke services, services tailor made for the market need.
She says Covid-19 affected everyone as well as the pharmaceutical industry especially the supply chain.
“We saw a lot of medication shortages. This identified a lot of knowledge gaps in the community. People now take better care of themselves, they know the use of supplements and other Over The Counter OTC products,” she notes.
The Miam pharmacy owner says because she has been in academia for the most part of her career, going into retail was also to try to close the gap in terms of being able to apply what is current in the market.
Through this Kenaope says she wanted to show the world that women are capable and can also thrive in the world of entrepreneurship. Along the journey, she has since discovered that the pharmaceutical industry is dominated by foreigners but as a young Motswana she wanted to tap into President Masisi’s reset agenda which calls for renewed thinking in people’s approach to life as citizens.
“We exist to plug our customers with affordable and quality medicines. This will go a long way in helping the country attain long term vision of having a healthy nation by 2036. A healthy nation, productive workforce,” she adds.
Kenaope says what is unique about Miam pharmacy is that they are innovative and they follow the trends in the market. They offer delivery services, discounts to students, telephonic pharmaceutical care and they also offer medication consultancy over the phone for patients who need information for free. “We have extended operating hours to meet our market demands. We strive to avail a wide possible range of medications for our patients to have a one stop service,” she adds.
To continuously ensure that their customers are informed Miam pharmacy has developed different platforms that they can use to communicate with their customers and other service providers like medical doctors and other health professionals. They have an active Facebook page, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms where they can interact with their customers.
The 33-year-old says they are located within medical centres with Doctors which makes it a one stop for most of their patients. “One of our doctor’s is a dermatologist, Dr Champane and therefore we offer more skin services beyond prescription drugs such as chemical peels, nutrition therapy, micro-needling, dermal fillers and many other aesthetic services,” she says.
She says some of the challenges that they face are that newly established pharmacies have a huge disadvantage of not being able to use umbrella licenses like old establishments, which makes it expensive to operate more than one branch of a pharmacy.
Botswana distributors still rely on imported medicines therefore any challenge in the supply chain in other countries greatly affects their stock levels and the fact that big pharmacies own whole distributors which gives them advantage in terms of acquiring stock, she notes.
She also adds that high unemployment rate means few people are on medical aid and therefore more competition for customers on the private market. She also notes that most people cannot afford medicines which results in them using government facilities.
Kenaope says government should support start-ups by increasing funds availability for startup capital. “Funds like Young farmers to be open to all entrepreneurs especially health more so that COVID-19 has identified a lot gaps in the health sector,” she notes.
She says government must also consider loosening up requirements for funding to make it easy to access the already available funds from the government. “YDF Should be easy to access for startup ventures for youth who mostly face a hard time dealing with financial institutions not willing to help them.”
Though they are new in the market they have done a bit of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). “We have supported an event at Goo Moremi Village by donating masks, sanitizers, first aid for a healthy fun during December festivities. We have joined hands with Premium Medical Centre to offer help to an orphanage, this is still in the pipeline, we are still trying to identify a place that has not received help so far and respond to their needs. We are planning to collaborate with Tshiamo Primary School which is in our vicinity to do Health Talks and combat more information on medications,” she adds.
Kenaope says her company plan to have atleast one bigger Miam pharmacy with a fully-fledged OTC and also to have more branches in other parts of the country to grow the brand. They are also exploring distribution as it is one of the bottlenecks in the pharmaceutical supply chain.