Despite earning a decent wage from his demanding day job at Debswana, Wilberforce Dolph Ntsenang was not content relying solely on his mining income after discovering his new business niche.
In 2013, the 39-year-old realised there was an opportunity in the steel-making industry.
Although he had no formal training in working with steel, it was a gap the talented craftsman expertly set out to exploit.
Supplementing his livelihood as a Monitoring Dispatcher at the diamond mine in Orapa, Ntsenang started building and selling various items, including sliding gates, braai stands, donkey carts, and lion trap cages.
Despite initial success and demand for his products, similar enterprises soon sprouted in the Boteti region, and the Rakops native was faced with stiff competition in an increasingly overcrowded market.
Desperate to offer customers something unique, in 2019 Ntsenang changed tack and turned his focus to designing three-legged wood stoves.
He has not looked back since.
“I thought of making wood stoves because as far as I know, I have not heard of anyone doing such a business. I started by designing a single wood stove and this year I am developing it into a two-burner stove,” revealed Ntsenang, adding he has big plans for his business, which is located in Letlhakane.
“I am hopeful that by the end of the year I would have developed an industrial four-burner wood stove which can be used with big pots in schools and other departments thus saving gas and electricity.”
Although he was reluctant to disclose exactly how he makes his stoves for fear someone will steal his design, Ntsenang told Voice Money his products use less wood and charcoal.
“I make my stoves using metal sheets and old geysers. Any wood or charcoal cut into pieces of 50 cm, four pieces on each side are enough to cook a meal.”
Explaining how his stoves function, Ntsenang said, “The smoke exits through the pipe-like chimney placed just by the top but on the side. The design also reduces the effect of the wind blowing hot embers onto clothing or any vegetation near it.
“The two holes designed on the belly of the stoves allow for the wood to be loaded in. On the bottom, there is a hole with a removable plate where ash can be dropped out for easier cleaning. It also boasts of two handles on both sides which make it convenient to move around.”
As well as cooking food, the stoves are ideal as an extra source of heat in winter, providing warmth to those who sit around them.
“And the good part is that it can be used in public places as it is environmentally friendly so those hosting parties can use it.
“People are really interested in these stoves and if I can find someone who supplies me with geysers my business will go far. In the future I will present my business to the government schools,” said Ntsenang, who sells his P300 products to individuals all across Botswana.
Currently, the entrepreneur has two employees who take up the slack when he is at work.
“In a day we can make up to five wood stoves. Since we started, we have sold more than 500 stoves countrywide.”
Going forward, Ntsenang plans to register his company, ruefully noting a lack of licensing has cost him, customers, in the past.
Other challenges include the expense of metal sheets as well as a shortage of used geysers.
Nevertheless, he maintains business ‘is doing well’ and is excited at what the future might hold.
Ntsenang also designs Jojo stands, stalls, canvas farmhouses, bailers, and soil augers (thakadu).