In 2019, Tshepiso Marumo was an unemployed Limkokwing University media graduate struggling to get by.
Unable to find formal employment within her area of study, with her last P100 note the 29-year-old bought raw corn, cooked it, and sold it to teachers at a nearby school.
Two years later and Marumo is now a successful businesswoman.
This weekend she opened her second stall and has a staff turnover of eight.
She now trades as Mmammidi, a name she was popularly referred to when she sold corn (Mmidi is a direct translation of corn).
This weekend Marumo invited the Voice reporter SHARON MATHALA to her second store opening in Gaborone.
Why didn’t you join the media field after graduating?
Because the media space is saturated.
Year in and year out graduates graduate but there are no new media houses and so you can imagine what happens to the rest of us who are not able to penetrate the market.
But hey, I am glad I was not able to actually gain a foothold in the industry because I don’t think the Mmammidi brand would be alive had I found employment after graduating.
You graduated in 2015 whereas the Mmammidi brand did not take off until 2019. What were you doing in the four-year gap?
Well, I had a few internship jobs. I also did babysitting for family and friends.
They would pay me a little something. It was not an easy four years because I was in and out of the internship.
And how did the Mmammidi phenomenon eventually start?
I stay near a school so one day I bought Mmidi (corn) and sold it to teachers at the school during tea break or during their lunch.
That went on for some time.
Then, through word-of-mouth advertising, I started getting clients asking me to deliver to their offices.
I would ask them to ask their colleagues if they too would want corn.
After a few weeks, I had quite a reasonable loyal clientele
How did the brand name come about?
Well at the time when I was delivering to people’s offices they started to refer to me as the girl who sells corn, in Setswana ‘Mmammidi’.
So when I eventually made it a business and decided to run a food stall, I thought it best to keep the name going because most people did not know my real names!
Did you receive funding for your project?
No. I have never received any sort of soft loan or funding for my business.
I started my project with my last P100 to buy corn – and now, two years later, I make more than enough 100 Pulas daily.
How many on average?
(Laughs) I make a reasonable amount of P100s per day.
What are some of the challenges you face as a female entrepreneur?
Well, I deal with mostly Traditional food and dishes and I would say some dishes are traditionally known to be best prepared by men.
So at times, I would get male customers undermining my services.
As women, we have mastered the art of multitasking so we are naturally born to be able to handle the pressure of doing a lot of things at once.
I guess that has helped me a lot.
I am able to be a mother and a wife and still have time for my business.
But those are naturally some of the challenges that we would face, is expected to perform other homely duties.
How were you able to grow your business in such a short space of time?
I think more than anything my media background equipped me with the skill to knock on doors.
It also helped me package my product in a way that will appeal to customers.
I brand my product just like some of these big corporations do.
The other thing is I see business in things you would probably not.
Well, right now you are having your coke right.
After finishing your drink, you will discard the tin – I see that as money.
Why can’t you collect used tins and sell them to recycling companies?
I told you I started off with corn but it was not every day that I would sell the corn – plus it is also seasonal.
So during those times where I was not able to sell corn, I would package it and sell it as ‘lechotlho’.
Right now we have expanded our brand and we sell Mmammidi Gemere (Ginger) and water.
Why should I sell other drink products when I can make my own?
That is what I mean by seeing money in things people ordinarily would not.
Impressive! So how important is managing finances when running a start-up business?
The truth is discipline is the only way to survive.
Like I said, with the first P100 I was able to buy corn and made like P7 profit on each cob of corn.
But as demand grew, I needed to find transport to deliver the corn.
So I had to save up to buy a car.
To expand, I also needed to brand myself because there are many others who are into the same business and branding costs money.
So I knew I had to be disciplined to save enough money to be able to afford branding, which would, in turn, increase sales for me.
The business comes first before the owner I always say.
How were you able to acquire the large piece of land you use for your business?
Well, I got in touch with the council and told them of my intent to use the land.
They did not have a problem.
The only thing is that I was told not to build a permanent structure just in case in the future there are plans to make any development.
Also, we have been instructed to keep the area clean.
What are some of the lessons you have learned from Covid-19?
Well, that we as a country should really put more effort into agriculture so that we can at least be able to sustain ourselves should the situation worsen.
I mean, there were instances where borders were closed and some of the foods that we import were unavailable, or rather it was not easy for it to get into the country.
And so what I learned is that we should at least be self-reliant in maybe the basics of foods – hence why I actually want to venture into expanding the Mmammidi brand and actually produce and package other products related to corn.
On a more personal note, what else do you get up to?
Well, I am into charity. I have identified two families in Gaborone and in Otse whom I assist with groceries.
One of them actually is a young girl I met in Hospital recently when I was hospitalised. She told me of her situation and so I decided to lend a helping hand.
You were hospitilised?
Yeah, I tripped, fell, and broke my arm!
Ouch, sorry to hear that. So how else do you spend your free time?
Well, I like to just hang out with friends, visit new places and create memories.
And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what will you be up to this Easter weekend?
I will be working. I mean there is restricted movement so I can’t really do much can I?