#BusinessSpotlight: Shilingo Leatherworks
Shilongo, a Oshiwambo word meaning country, is the embodiment of what Shilongo Leatherworks signifies -the importance of homegrown. The Namibian enterprise was founded by married couple Sakeus Shilongo and Selma Shilongo, birthed by Sakeus’ talent and passion for leatherwork.
The company manufactures and sells a wide range of leather goods crafted by hand to perfection. These include fashion accessories and everyday useful leather goods made from leather sourced in the country. Shoes for all genders and age ranges wallets, belts, are some of the customer’s favourite products.
“Our products and style of design is quite unique and that has given us a competitive edge in a highly competitive and fast moving industry – fashion, as it has an ethnic background and is culture based” said Sakeus.
Shilongo Leatherworks products are handmade thus uniquely different from most mainstream potential competitors. During its inception the business faced various challenges such as the distance to source the hides from the tannery. Transportation costs were high and thus they could only afford to purchase one hide at a time to manufacture and sell, profit used to purchase another hide.
“With the one hide you could only make wallets, belts, key holders and watch straps.”
Ease of access to affordable raw material is of the common challenges that small businesses face, especially when there is limited start up funding. Other challenges that the business has faced include theft from the public and even employees, lack of funding for expansion and costs incurred in having to purchase other raw materials in South Africa. The Shilongos however had a vision and determination that kept them going for over 32 years and they have even bigger plans to expand beyond the small population of just over 2 million people.
Through showcasing in various platforms both in Namibia and other countries, especially in the Southern African region, there has been evident demand for Shilongo high quality products. The company is therefore currently preparing itself to serve markets beyond Namibia. Customers from anywhere in the world will soon be able to purchase the products online
“We want to be a supplier of leather goods to companies outside Namibia starting with SADC countries then moving to outer parts of Africa then beyond Africa. We want our products especially our highly favoured shoes to be sold in big retail shops.”
While African youth are encouraged to establish entrepreneurial venture, Sakeus advises that for one to be able to survive the testing path of entrepreneurship, one must have a passion for the business they intend to do and be very active in the running of the start up. He cautions that dedication and patience are crucial as it mostly takes time for businesses to start making good profit. Most importantly business owners should always re-invest in the business.