business

March 15, 2022

’MAMACHA TŠEHLA

3 min read

Atchar entrepreneur gets a breakthrough

Atchar entrepreneur gets a breakthrough

Home-made mango atchar

Story highlights

  • Maribe started selling steel wool to generate school fees
  • Meeting rude customers does not discourage her

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YOUNG entrepreneur Lieketseng Maribe is making it into the business world, selling home-made atchar.

Together with a friend, Maribe, 23, started her business quite by accident after she had failed her school exams and had to finance her studies.

It started with selling steel wool to generate income to pay for her exam fee.

"My friend joined me as she also needed cash at that time because the NMDS (National Manpower Development Secretariat) was only paying for our fees,” the young entrepreneur said.

“We went from door to door after school and managed to raise enough funds required to rewrite exams.”

The former student representative council and vice president at the Center for Accounting Studies (CAS) said temporary failure could not stop her from following her dream.

Born and bred in Thaba-Tseka, the management accounting major said in as much as it was challenging to balance academics and business, meeting rude customers could not discourage them either.

“But we quickly raised the money in a short space of time that I could not believe it,” she added.

After the exams, she returned to business with a different perspective, wanting to sell atchaar with beans to boost sales.

“Our first client was not a fan of atchar but after tasting ours, she wanted to buy it in large quantities”, said Maribe.

“We also had a challenge of people selling another brand of atchar, claiming it was ours and had to brand ours Cosmos atchar to be easily recognised.”

Maribe said branding helped their customers to easily identify their atchar and gave them the assurance that they purchased the right product.

She said in November 2019, they attended the fourth expo that was sponsored by the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO).

“The expo was a success and we managed to display our product and make it known,” she also said.

“That year ended on a high note as more shops we were supplying in Ha Thetsane made orders and the business grew."

As they were studying, she said they were expected to excel in class and it became really hard but they soldiered on.

"We required more time to focus on our studies and the business - on the other hand - needed us full-time to be creative and innovative,” said Maribe.

“We would get calls from clients demanding orders to be supplied while we were in class and that’s how we lost many customers."

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Maribe said their problems kept on mounting with time.

Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the borders closed and the business stopped as they had no stock of fresh mango.

“We lost many valuable customers,” she said.

"When borders re-opened, we met with yet another challenge, inflation. As a result, we had to increase prices to be able to break even."

Despite the challenges, Maribe said they had to really work hard, approaching more shops, retailers and supermarkets to make sales.

“Our fantasy became a reality when Enrich Stores were impressed by our successful presentation and fast forward the product was on the shelves. This is one of our biggest victories as we were able to reach massive customers because Enrich are in town."

Maribe said they realised how much they liked the business that they started looking for ways to market Cosmos atchar on campus.

"I thought of how much I love helping people and used that as an advantage to campaign for student representative council vice presidency and I won,” she said.

“I liked it when fellow students labelled me an SRC member who sold atchar and that way everyone knew about the product, bringing in more customers.”

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