Meet Paballo Phaswana
Driven by passion, 40-something-year-old introvert, Paballo Phaswana, aspires to make the Forbes Africa list of most influential entrepreneurs in the next five years.
Not an impossible feat to achieve as the accomplished mother-of-two young adults is not only a creative, self-taught baker and brewer, but also a qualified management consultant, project manager, economist and practicing soft skills trainer.
Voice Woman sat with the sharp-witted, outside-of-the-box thinker who is also an architecture enthusiast with a qualification in interior architect and green design.
Formerly an Assistant Buyer in the fast-moving consumer goods sector (FMCG), the multipreneur, who enjoys travelling and dancing, considers herself a ‘boundary pusher’ who believes every challenge is an opportunity. “I believe in continuous improvement. There is always something on the other side of a destination and it must always be explored. ”
Give us a brief background of your businesses.
I mentioned that I am a baker. I run Crave Bakery with two other partners. Crave is a confectionery bakery which started in 2016 but just managed recently to break into the commercial industry.
We do customised bakes of all sorts but pride ourselves in being the first commercial suppliers of specialised dietary confectionery which is our egg free, gluten free, sugar free and lactose free range.
The main stockist of our product range is Food Lovers Market/Square Mart at the moment and very soon, Choppies, across selected branches.
We also supply other bakeries and cafés as well as the hospitality industry.
We are jumping on every wave of opportunity we come across in order to expand our footprint across the country.
The government’s ban on imports of baked goods is one such opportunity we intend to ride.
Be on the lookout for the most incredibly tasting chocolate, caramel, mango, and carrot and coconut cakes with the Crave signature on them; especially if you’re looking for a Woolies replacement.
I am also a self-taught brewer who has worked on a ginger drink recipe (better known as gemere) for a few years and have gotten to perfect it to give you Ginger Rush; a ginger drink manufactured and bottled by a company called Sugar Rush.
As Batswana, we know the importance of gemere at any event or gathering.
As much as there cannot be any meeting without cake, likewise there cannot be a gathering without gemere.
Ours is the most authentic tasting gemere available commercially, bottled and branded in a language that speaks to one’s senses.
Simply put, it is bottle poetry. Sugar Rush, which has a range of ice teas and juices, is also manufactured and bottled right here in Botswana.
I run Sugar Rush with 1 other partner and the company is expanding much quicker than we can blink.
Our products are available at Square Mart and Choppies for now.
As an introvert, I never imagined myself as an educator of sorts, but alas at some point in my life I found myself as a customer service ambassador.
That is how I got into training and rode my journey to being a trainer in customer service, sales, team management, strategy, change management and other soft skills.
The journey also led me to pursuing a qualification in project management (PMBOK) and I am currently on my way to earning my project management practitioner (PMP) qualification.
It is on this strength of imparting knowledge that I run a training company with a partnering training academy, Genesis, from across the border.
We have also combined offerings across companies to offer training packages that will help equip Batswana looking to break into business.
For example, one of our baking courses includes introduction to business management and will not only equip the learner with baking skills but will also arm them with basic soft skills, planning and management, winning sales techniques, marketing as well as compliance guidance.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
One of my biggest challenges as an individual would be trying to tame my big hairy ideas into small manageable bite-sized ones; trying to slow down my zeal to meet reality and most of all finding that balance.
It has been an even bigger challenge to run several businesses as a single mother because that means I have a household to run but no fallback income that acts as surety.
Being in business sometimes means one-meal-a-day days or no electricity, in order to see a goal through.
From a small business perspective, our challenges border around cash flow and bridging the gap between invoice payments and production/supply.
That is one of the biggest obstacles of a small business and needs utmost resilience and perseverance to survive.
Like most businesses – big and small – the effects of Covid-19 have been gruelling, nonetheless we quickly re-strategised our road maps in order to stay relevant.
Do you consider yourself a serial entrepreneur?
I definitely consider myself a serial entrepreneur. I have already mentioned the businesses that I drive but I hunger for more.
I have unvisited ideas for which opportunities have presented themselves and find it very difficult to turn them down.
Anything that will contribute to the household of a fellow Motswana through employment, I consider it a blessing and there is always space for one more.
Do you have entrepreneurial mentors?
As much as it is good to make mistakes in order to learn from them, it is even better to learn from other people’s mistakes.
It saves time, a lot of money and may even save the business itself, as such it is imperative to have entrepreneurial mentors, so yes, absolutely, I have mentors.
To throw the spanner in the works, I think it is more important to have business advisors in various skill sets, such as financial management consultants, investment consultants, marketing consultants etc.
These specialists are always abreast of the current markets and trends, and how they transcend to the pockets of consumers, which will have a direct impact on any business.
That means they can give you current real time advice, which weighs a little bit more than acquired knowledge overtime, which may likely be obsolete.
You were previously in the FMCG sector, what lessons have been of most value to your entrepreneurial journey?
Being in the FMCG sector opened my mind to the world of manufacturing. I couldn’t believe how much the most trivial things came from other countries.
We have products from a lot of countries crossing our borders onto our shelves but they are the simplest, smallest of products, which can be easily manufactured in Botswana.
As an Assistant Buyer, I grew to learn and scrutinize the complete value chain of a product and, for me, that was the biggest eye opener.
I got to learn and understand challenges and learnt from the mistakes of each party in the value chain.
To name a few; the importance of branding and product presentation, meeting standards, consistency in both production and delivery, costing and win-win pricing… because you are in business after all, seamless and cost effective logistics, the importance of sales and marketing and lastly and with a lot of emphasis; a very robust team!
What advice would you give your younger self?
• Travel farther
• Cast your networking net wider
• Talk to strangers… about anything
• Competition is healthy
• There is nothing new under the sun
…And up and coming entrepreneurs?
• Calculate your risks
• Study the markets
• Knowledge is infinite! Equip yourselves with knowledge.
• Work smart and research
• Some of the best places to learn are from inside someone else’s business
• Invest in yourself, no one can ever take away your skills and knowledge
• Perception counts