I am Sam, originally from Racops. I started my business in 2011 as I felt there was a need for more upholstery work in Maun.
I learned to do upholstery when a friend took me to Bulawao to visit his family when I finished my schooling in Botswana. I ended up being trained there by a man called Spanda in how to make many things, even sofas and to stitch tents. It was great training for me - I liked this job, especially making the big things from canvas. Canvas is my favourite, even when I’m back at the cattle post I like to sleep in a tent. Canvas is so strong, and people don’t complain when you make things from canvas. Normal fabric can rip, but canvas is resilient and you can clean and polish it.
After 5 years there I came back to Botswana and while I worked in Jao camp I saved my tips to be able to buy my own sewing machine. I was thinking all the time about how to do my own upholstery business. I wanted to give a good service to my clients so they would keep coming to me.
I started paying for my first Singer sewing machine in instalments from Masters Investment shop in Maun. This is the only place you can buy materials and sewing machines but now I also order canvas and other tings like sliders and threads through Dungbeetle company. I also now have three Kingstar sewing machines – which are very compatible with canvas, as well as another three Singar machines for normal fabric. This is good investment into in my business.
When I started with my first clients I wanted to do a very good job so that they would tell their friends and people would know me. So I made bags out of canvas that could be sent to Chitabe camp. The guests were happy and more bags were ordered. People started to know me and come to my workshop. Safari companies like Capture Africa and Old Bridge BackPackers were some of my first customers who helped me a lot.
This is the only place you can buy materials and sewing machines
But I have a lot of special customers who are always pushing me to do more. They are very encouraging and that is what makes me happy. When I see their gratitude in their faces when they pick up the items they wanted me to work on - that is so rewarding. People ask me to make many different items. I never thought I would end up making canvas wardrobes! They are difficult because you must also make the metal frame and then cut the hardboard for the back. Then you get the canvas to wrap around it. The canvas has to be cut very accurately and it must be done properly.
In my dream for my business I would have my own plot and then I could have a big building with tents, sofas and chairs already made. People could come and buy them without waiting for them to be made from scratch. They would be ready and on show. They can see what they want and say ‘ I want that one’. I am looking for a plot so some day I will do this. You need some space to make a sofa completely from the frame upwards.
What makes me happy is that people are pleased with their item when they collect it from me. You can see that on their faces. I tell people who work with me – we must do this for our client, it will please them. I am happy in my business and my clients appreciate my work. To other people wanting a business you must know that you are your own supervisor, you employ yourself so you must carry on, even on the weekend. To have your own business brings satisfaction, when you put in the work, you get the reward.’
What makes me happy is that people are pleased with their item when they collect it from me