WINDHOEK – For Katrina Namundjebo competing with men in the male dominated industrial sector came naturally, because she has “always wanted to compete with men. It is an even playing field for me, I do not gender stereotype any job.”
Namundjebo is the owner of Kathy’s Joinery and Renovations, a business she founded in 2009 after graduating from the Windhoek Vocational Training Centre (WVTC) with a qualification in joinery and cabinet making. “When I saw how foreign companies were treating our people I decided it was time to make a difference and instead of complaining I ventured out and hit the ground running,” said Namundjebo. Kathy’s Joinery and Renovations CC employs several men, one woman and a female intern. Namunjebo finds it easier to work with men than with women. “Although men are a bit rough and their egos tend to cloud their judgement from time to time, men are truly hard working. Women on the other hand, granting the fact that they abide by the rules, are not as hard working. Women tend to complain a lot and are too emotional.”
The business woman told New Era, she does not believe in keeping the same employees for years and always assists her employees to start their own businesses. “Why should I keep someone in the same position year after year, our job is to create employment and empower our people. If I can help someone to start a business I will and move on to helping the next person,” she says. Her employees work on a commission basis. “Due to the nature of this business I cannot afford to pay workers a monthly salary, what they make is what they get. I have employed many people, but I always push and encourage them to venture out on their own and register their own businesses.” Namundjebo acknowledges the fact that not everyone in Namibia has access to the same opportunities. “I know several people who are making it out there, and I am proud to say I encouraged and motivated people to become [what they are today],” said Namundjebo with obvious pride.
According to her Namibians do not want to work. “Having employed and worked with a wide diversity of people I came to the realization that Namibians do not want to work. They believe in working for someone else and relying on the government,” said Namundjebo. The young business woman went into business after working for different people and companies for many years. “I have worked for almost everyone from Chinese, Germans, coloureds, blacks to whites and even Zimbabwean business people through the years and I was always learning from my bosses. Everyone is unique in the way they do things,” Namundjebo said.
However, the road to success was not easy for Namundjebo who faced a multitude of problems on her journey. It was during this time that her entrepreneurial gift kicked in. “Life was hard growing up, staying in school was a headache on its own and life was never perfect, said the business woman who was raised by her great-grandmother. “I only met my mother when I was 10-years-old and was only introduced to my father seven years later when I was 17-years-old. I started working in a hotel at 15 and I remember having to stay with friends, because there was no one to give me money. I failed my Grade 10 due to stress. I eventually registered myself with NAMCOL, because no one was there to find me a school. It was all up to me, having a baby at a very young age did not make things any easier,” Namundjebo reminisced about the way she grew up.
Life did not get any better for Namundjebo after completing secondary school. “I could not go to the University of Namibia or Polytechnic, because money was simply not available. As a result I enrolled in the Windhoek Vocational Training Centre (WVTC). My first WVTC tuition fee which was N$1000 at the time was paid by a good Samaritan and a dear friend and after five years of struggling I graduated from WVTC. It took me long to complete my tertiary education, because I had to drop out due to financial constraints and other hardships,” said Namundjebo smiling. She is glad that through all her tribulations she never sought a sugar daddy or gave up on making a success of her life. ”I did not have a childhood, but there were several guardian angels that helped me along the way. I recall squatting with friends in the hostel. Also, a family that took me in never charged me money to stay with them in return I helped them sell insurance policies, a friend of mine helped with taxi money.
Another good friend would walk to WVTC from her shack in Goreagab dam. I even stayed with a Chinese family. When my boss who was Chinese, saw how much I was struggling he offered me a room in his house where I stayed with his family for a while,” said Namunjebo. As a result she wants to give her daughter the best in life. “My daughter is the reason I wake up every morning, she keeps me going. I have two brothers whom I trained myself and who work for me. None of them had the luxury of going to school, because of financial problems,” Namundjebo said.
By John Travolter Matali