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Youth-driven businesses awarded

Bereng Mpaki

THE Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation recently recognised young people making a difference in various businesses through the ministry’s development programmes.

According to the Director of Youth, Lipalesa Lesenyeho, 14 youth-driven entrepreneurs were recently recognized for demonstrating good business practices that have seen their enterprises grow.

The enterprises received awards under different categories including Expansion, Survivor, Sustained and Under Incubation.

The Ministry runs three programmes, the Economic Empowerment; Social Empowerment; and Political Empowerment, focused on supporting young people to run sustainable businesses and help to create employment.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ms Lesenyeho said the aim was to encourage young people to work hard to develop their businesses.

“While we work with them on a regular basis, we came up with this special event to honour them and make them realize that we value and respect their commitment and determination. We also wanted the event to inspire other young people by saying, as much as it is not easy, with determination they can also set-up their own sustainable businesses and become employers,” she said.

Ms Lesenyeho highlighted the need to hold the award ceremony annually with various themes to put on the spotlight issues affecting young entrepreneurs.

She acknowledged resource limitations as one of the ministry’s challenges, explaining they would like to assist many youths with equipment, funding and other interventions, to help them establish their businesses.

“If we look at the number of young people who have brilliant business proposals but lacking the financial muscle to put their plans in motion, our current interventions are a drop in the ocean. We would like to help a significant number of young people and hope we will have improved resources in the new financial year, which is just around the corner.”

The big winner of the day was a textile company called Johane Garment Manufacturers (JGM), which walked away with two awards for Best Product in the Expansion Category as well as Best Performers in textiles in the Incubation Category.

The company was established by a group of youths who had just graduated in fashion and apparel design in 2013. Theirs were humble beginnings as they started their business with only five sewing machines and operating from a makeshift factory shell.

Today the company has grown and employs 40 people who produce protective clothing; freezer suits, reflective jackets and combat jackets, among others.

Clients can also order specialised clothing they need the company to deliver.

The company is currently under incubation at Maseru Skills Development Centre under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, through its Lesotho Enterprise Assistance Programme (LEAP).

In an interview with the Sunday Express last week, JGM Managing Director, Tšepo Johane said the recognition by the Ministry of Gender was a vote of confidence showing they were on the right path.

“The awards have boosted our confidence. This is an evaluation that showed us that we are on the right track. We are motivated to continue working hard to improve the business and to dream bigger,” said Mr Johane.

Asked what sets them apart from other enterprises, Mr Johane said they are an enterprise that values consulting and learning from others for better results.

“We do not know everything about the industry and therefore, learning for us is an ongoing process. On the other hand, we are a team that loves what we do, we still have the same passion we had when we started the business. That is what has kept us a team.”

JGM has benefitted from the Ministry of Gender under its Social Compact Programme, which facilitated provision of a total 30 items including sewing machines and ironing gear in 2015.

The growth of the company came with various challenges, which included the suspension of operations for over six months after they failed to secure a business premises.

“At some point, before 2016, we had to close shop after failing to secure some orders,” Mr Johane said.

However, JGM Factory Manager, Thomello Pokola said as of 2016, the company has not suspended its operations following a steady flow of production orders.

“Things have drastically changed for the better for us in recent times. We have not run out of orders for a long time and we would like to thank all the corporates that have been supporting us. Their support has been phenomenal, such that we are going to need more factory space to meet the demand,” said Mr Pokola.

The company is currently preparing to relocate to a larger factory shell at Tikoe Industrial area to be able to increase its production capacity and allow it to fully align with the industrialization standards.

Mr Pokola also emphasized the need to maintain high quality standards to win the confidence of clients and remain in business.

“Our growth is measured in terms of the quality we produce. Over the years, we have been working on this and continue to improve our standards.”

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