‘BancABC took the time to understand our business. They recognised the potential in us.’
“Our story as business owners begins when we founded SignXpert together in 2013,’ begins Kefilwe Ruwona. I wasn’t always an entrepreneur.
In the years before we formed the business I would help my husband with his signage operation on a part-time basis. I loved to keep myself busy on evenings, weekends and holiday with mostly administrative tasks he didn’t have time for. That’s my strength.”
She continues: “He was working very hard and I could see there was potential in this industry. After a couple of years, I made the big decision to resign from my job, and join him full time to help grow the company. In the beginning, we were very small: a tiny premises with three staff members. But we had everything we needed to make this company a real success, a strong work ethic, good understanding of the industry and a handful of happy customers who were giving us repeat business.”
“However, there was one key ingredient we were missing. The only way to unlock the next level of growth was to upgrade our machinery. We needed top-of-the-line new printers so that we could expand and diversify. But we didn’t have that kind of money, and that’s when we started having a meaningful dialogue with BancABC. They took the time to understand our business and seeing the potential in us, offered us a loan to acquire the machinery we needed to grow — and grow we did,” she smiles.
“The new machines enabled us do a lot of new things that stimulated the business. I estimate that we grew tenfold in a short space of time,’ explains Jackson Ruwona — who currently divides his duties between being the co-owner and front-line operations manager of the business.
‘We have been able to transition into a full-service signage and branding business. Very few citizen-owned SMEs in this industry are able to make that leap,’ he adds, it is the financial backing we have received from BancABC has given us the confidence to scale up. We have qualified for additional funding over time because we always honor our loan agreements. Never missed a payment!”
Ruwona reflects on the COVID-19 shutdowns and the impact they have had on the family business. “During the Lockdowns, our factory was running at full capacity because many of our clients needed us as they responded to the pandemic. We were printing labels for hand sanitizer bottles and new signs for all kinds of workplaces.
We also make branded buffs which are a great alternative to face-masks. We have stayed relevant to the changing needs of our customers. Our marriage gives the business its stability and foundation as we are united in our vision for what this can one day become, we share the workload, the ideas, the setbacks, and the credit — everything is equal.”
The founding directors of Botswana and JSE-listed retailer, Choppies Enterprises Limited (“Choppies” or “the Company” or “the Group”) backed the Group’s turn-around strategy to the tune of just over P11,000,000.00 million recently.
Messrs. Ramachandran Ottapathu and Ismail Farouk acquired 18 597 724 shares on the open market at an average price of approximately 63 thebe per share on the Botswana Stock Exchange in a slew of transactions at the end of October.
“As a management team, we faced numerous challenges during the past number of years. The retail environment continues to experience headwinds, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. As a significant shareholder and director, I am confident that the worst is behind Choppies and that we’re close to the bottom of the cycle. “Our investment strongly aligns us with shareholders as we now focus on further improving corporate governance and growing profitability,” comments Chief Executive Officer Ramachandran Ottapathu.
The founding directors are currently involved in litigation against the Company’s former auditor and audit partner for delaying the publication of the Company’s audited results following breaches of independence and unlawful changes to the scope of the audit. This resulted in the suspension of trade in the Company’s shares on both the Botswana Stock Exchange (“BSE”) where it holds a primary listing as well as on the JSE Limited (“JSE”).
The JSE lifted the suspension of trade in the Company’s shares, following a similar decision by the BSE in July this year. Botswana based Kwabena Antwi from Kgori Capital says that shareholders will take courage from the fact that the Group is now current on its financial statements, following the BSE’s lifting of the trading suspension.
“Shareholder confidence is usually linked with shareholders returns. Getting Choppies back to an overall profitable position, where they are capable of paying dividends will go a long way in shoring up shareholder confidence. The next phase will focus on implementing governance structures throughout the Group. Some progress has been made, but there is still more to be rolled out,” he says.
At the presentation of the audited financial results for the year ended 30 June 2020, the Company said it has discontinued or disposed of its lossmaking operations in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This resulted in a once-off loss of approximately P371 million from discontinued operations and an increase in negative equity to P467 million for the financial year ended 30 June 2020.
“The board of Choppies considered the 2021 budgets, detailed cash flow forecasts that were stress tested, as prepared by management, banking facilities and covenants, undertakings of financial support by the founder shareholders, the economic outlook of the countries in which it operates as well as the possible future impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Based on the evidence provided by management, the Board concluded that the Group has already taken the necessary steps to remedy the past situation by discontinuing loss making operations the Company and the Group should be a going concern for the foreseeable future.
“As founder shareholders we remain committed to the turn-around strategy of Choppies, and confident of growing profitability in the short to medium term,” says Ottapathu.
The turnaround at Choppies follows implantation of turnaround strategy to improve corporate governance and exit of underperforming operations in South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania
The Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Honorable Anna Mokgethi paid an official campus visit to Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, on Thursday 29th October where she stated how she was impressed by the prowess that the university carries when it comes to creativity, innovation and technology as well as issues of gender based violence.
The purpose of the visit was for the minister appreciate what the University stands for, engage with staff and students and establish collaborations which will be beneficial to all within the university and the community which is within her constitution in her capacity as Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington North.
She also took time to discuss issues of compliance challenges as well as general welfare following the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister’s campus visit started off with a tour of the University’s corporate walkthrough, followed by a tour of the students work exhibition.
She also had an opportunity to tour the University’s ecosystem including the University’s e-library, which is the biggest in the country, specialized digital, animation and architecture labs as well as the University’s Campus Radio where he was interviews live by students.
A visit to one of the lecture rooms saw Hon. Mokgethi walking into a Gender Based Violence Campaign Presentation by students much to her delight as a champion of the fight against GBV. She stated, “. Let me just say that I was gratified to witness an ongoing discussion on Gender based Violence during my campus tour.
As you all know GBV is very prevalent in our society, and I really want to commend you as a university for having seen it fit to play your role as institution of higher learning by incorporating the topic in your curriculum which I believe will have positive results in behavioral change of the community.
I was also impressed by the fact that we do not only have females involved, but we also have males involved. With our strategies, of involving men as part of finding the solution I am confident that we will win this fight and end GBV in our country. And I am extremely proud of what I saw and I am inspired.
The university prepared an official programme, where the student community representatives inclusive of students with special needs had an opportunity to share their experiences about the University with the Minister.
Speaking on behalf of students from 31 international countries currently enrolled in Limkokwing Botswana, Pearl Dikana from South Africa highlighted the university has proved to be a very hospitable home away from home for many of them, that has given them a chance to acquire skills that will help them contribute to their countries economies as Limkokwing is a respectable Global Brand present in 3 continents.
Limkokwing University mission states that the institution is committed to training industry relevant and ready graduates who can migrate seamlessly into the industry of choice. The University has coined the word INDUSITY, combining the words Industry and University to describe this innovative approach to education.
Through collaboration the University is able to work with the industry in unparalled ways in products or service innovation. The ability to respond professionally has attracted industry to collaborate on special projects to obtain fresh new angles to various economic issues.
This collaboration with industry has also been extended to government with the intention to build national competitiveness and the country’s global reputation through innovative design and effective branding. Students are given the opportunity to work on projects commissioned by the industry.
The collaboration between the university and the industry enables Limkokwing students to participate in projects working with industry professionals to output work that is used by industry to promote their projects and services.
Limkokwing University continues to attract active, vibrant and smart generation who are industry and future ready and are trained to think beyond employability upon graduation.