Africa News Bulletin

Namibia: Hobby turned into chilli business

DESPITE the challenges of the pandemic which saw unemployment rates soar, one Namibian man has managed to turn his hobby into a profitable business.

“During the first Covid-19 lockdown, I was working in the lodge industry, and the worldwide lockdowns were killing tourism.

I had to find another source of income and was looking for a solution, when family and friends reminded me that the solution was in my cupboards all along, says Namib Chilli founder Johann Viljoen.

“I started making a few chilli sauces and pickles and gave them to friends and family to taste, and they were all very keen to buy from me,” says Viljoen.

The feedback he received encouraged him to put all his effort into establishing the business.

“I realised that this was an opportunity to explore, so I applied with Bipa to register the name and to become a formal producer of chilli products.”

Although the process of starting the business was no easy task for Viljoen who faced challenges in securing the necessary materials to package his products, he never gave up.

“I wanted to quit many times. I lay awake many nights unable to sleep, unable to stop worrying. We prayed to God for guidance.

“Bottles became a nightmare, as did a supply of chillies. I experimented with different types of chillies in order to find a consistent heat and taste. We travelled many kilometers to look for the right bottles, jars, caps, seals and packaging material.

Viljoen says it took six weeks to register the name of the business, and another few weeks to get the CC registered.

Persistence was key to overcoming the challenges and setting his business on the right course.

“I had to borrow to survive. It costs me a lot of money to rent premises, but without that I will forfeit my certificate of approval and won’t be able to supply the shops anymore. There are many people who make sauces at home and sell them informally.

“There are lots of rules and regulations to adhere to in the consumer business. We tried to attend as many markets and events as possible, so people could taste our products and we could get direct feedback from them,” he says.

“We try to buy our supplies mainly from Namibians, but it is hard. Most consumer products come from South Africa. I pay double locally what other producers pay in South Africa for bottles, caps, chillies and ingredients.”

Despite the challenges, Viljoen still encourages other entrepreneurs not to give up on their long-term business ideas.

“Some Namibians don’t want to look at long-term business, they want to make all their money right now, this instant. It is a sad state of affairs. We are a few that try to support each other, be it with chillies, transport, printing, bottles, ingredients, the list is long.”

Viljoen says all his products are handmade in Namibia and are produced without artificial enhancers, stabilisers, flavourings, and preservatives.

“All these additives make the products cheaper to produce on a large scale. We don’t want that,” he says.

“Namib Chilli is a listed supplier to Spar Namibia, Metro Namibia, Woermann Coastal, as well as many other shops, big and small,” he says.

Original story on The Namibian

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