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From cleaner to boss
Words like ‘determination’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘hard work’ are used so often in political rhetoric it becomes easy to separate these from any concrete meaning.
The story of Evaflo though, a local cleaning company that started doing business from inside the corporate headquarters of Namdeb back in 2008, is testament to the significance held within such clichés.
In 2008, Namibia’s diamond giant Namdeb was not in the best of shapes.
Recently announced financial crises in Europe and the US held dire consequences for the company, who in an attempt to save escalating costs, offered their workers ‘voluntary separation’ packages.
Among those who accepted the offer was Eva Kamunguma, a long-standing employee who since starting as a cleaner at the company in 1984, had moved her way up to tea lady, front office desk official, and eventually filing system administrator.
Though while the expectation of others, including her family, was that she would retire and “move to the farm”, Kamunguma and a fellow colleague also up for separation, decided it an opportunity to broaden their horizons.
“At the same time the company announced they were going to outsource their cleaning department. My partner was a cleaning supervisor, while I had some even management experience through courses I’d attended with work. So we decided to apply for the tender”, she says.
The two approached the Namdeb Foundation for assistance in drawing up a business plan, and got more than they bargained for when the foundation extended this assistance to business acumen training and start-up capital.
Unfortunately, her partner passed away during this start up phase – though determined to succeed, Kamunguma approached another friend, Flora Seibes, and on August 3, 2008, with an initial 15 employees, the two opened the doors to cleaning service company, EvaFlo.
“It was difficult, but it was a challenge,” Seibes says about their first year in operation.
“There were many ups and downs. It came as a big shock for example, when we found out we had to pay the receiver of revenue about N$100 thousand in income tax just in that first year,” Kamunguma recalls laughing now.
“Also the challenges working with your own staff. Different tribes, different personalities. Since then we’ve been able to come together with our staff, almost like a family, and we try to leave that message with them that you can really move step-by-step and achieve big things if you have the will to,” Seibes says.
From those humble beginnings, the two have managed to build their brand and today employ 23 people, whilst they’ve also branched out to handling the cleaning for companies Deloitte, the Roads Contractor Company (RCC) and miners Areva.
In addition, they do private cleaning for individuals upon request, and were recently invited to Swakopmund by a prospective client there.
“If we go there, it should be clear we’ll employ staff from there. We won’t bring in workers from Windhoek” Seibes says.
“We’re registered as an investment company, so in fact we could branch into construction tenders or apply for fishing quotas,” says Kamunguma, her eye fixed on the future.
“The first thing is to pray for wisdom,” is her advice to anyone taking inspiration from their story.
“No one believed me and Flo could one day run our own business. But if you have eyes, if you have hands and feet, there’s nothing too difficult to tackle,” she says.