Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Re-building Lobatse economy one pallet at a time

For years, the wooden pallet business has been gaining strong momentum within the small business community in Botswana. The Lobatse town is now playing catch up with some manufacturers who have set up to absorb the Lobatse market. 

The intention is also to expand their reach outside the town to compete in what seems to be now an overcrowded business model.

One such player in Lobatse is Batho Modo whose love for creating products with wood began in 2019. At the time he was working at Flo-Tek as an HR Assistant. One weekend during his travel with a friend he bought two tools, a jigsaw and a sanding machine. Modo then started watching Do It Yourself (DIY) videos on YouTube and he made his first shoe rack and that is basically how his trade with pallets began. 

He says Covid-19 was a blessing in disguise for him because within the first 30 days of lockdown he had made twice his salary and that was the beginning of his partnership with his now business partner, Peo Molebatsi.

Together they own a wood manufacturing company in Lobatse called Woodpecker Chronicles.

Batho says he resigned five months later to focus on their business and they were incorporated in November 2020.

“We started off with just seven-hundred Pula worth of equipment and now we are at more than forty-thousand Pula. No one funded us, we did everything out of our pockets. I have had people coming to me asking why I am not going to CEDA and my answer is I will go when the time is right. I am still conceptualizing,” he noted.

He says that beds seem to be making more money at the moment adding that everyone wants a base for their bed but not particularly looking for the ones made out of pallets, hence they are moving away from this type of wood. 

“We are upping the game, we are using genuine wood from the shop and using just a little bit of pallet,” he stated.

He says they are moving towards South African pine which he admits is a little bit expensive, Ply wood and American pine.

They want to completely move away from pallets and use proper wood. He says their dream is to start up production lines and shops.  

Batho says he does not want to see any foreigner dominating this industry when Batswana have the same capabilities.

“If I can meet the demand government can stop this dominance by foreigners. It’s possible in the Botswana that we are living in today, you just have to make a decision and be disciplined enough to go and get what God has ordained you to do,” he added.

His business partner says some of their challenges are using machinery that cannot handle mass production at an industrial level which means they have breakdowns every now and then, slowing up their production. But says plans are underway to seek funding to acquire the right machinery. 

Even though most of their business is heavily reliant on the Gaborone market these two say they will not be moving their business to Gaborone now or in the future. They say they want to bring back the roots of Lobatse to where they know them. 

You can follow their page, Woodpecker Chronicles on Facebook for more of their products or call 71669778/ 75052995.  

On the other side of town there is Fierce Solutions (PTY) LTD who also specialize in wood manufacturing. Its Managing Director – Constance Mogopodi says together with her partner they make furniture, fittings, ceilings  and anything woodwork. 

Her team is mostly comprised of women who assist their male carpenters but highlights that hiring women wasn’t a deliberate decision. 

“We don’t discriminate we believe both men and women have the same capabilities. I know that this job is mostly done by men but also women are more than capable. Most of us here are women,” she noted.

Their dream is to own a well-established furniture shop in the next five years  because they have realized the high unemployment rate in the town so expanding will help them create jobs. They also want to run an apprenticeship program for those who do not have the skills so they can teach them.

“We recently put out a job advert and we received an overwhelmingly large number of applications and this just goes to show that a lot of people are unemployed,” she stated.

She says working capital is currently a hurdle for them as they are simply making enough for overheads and materials. 

For more of their products email, [email protected] or 74347832 and Fierce Solutions  Pty Ltd on Facebook.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper