Angolan-born Connie Nghishiiko, 26, believes that although she hails from an underprivileged background she was not born to be poor.
Nghishiiko moved to Namibia after Independence in 1990, growing up in the small village of Eengonyo close to Eenhana in the northern part of Namibia. She has six siblings and completed her high school at Haimbili Haufiku Senior Secondary School in Eenhana, where she matriculated with flying colours.
Nghishiiko grew up a very shy girl, but had always been involved in different activities. In high school she was secretary of the Leaners’ Representative Council (LRC) and also participated in various beauty pageants.
From Haimbili she went on to further her studies at the University of Namibia (Unam), where she first enrolled for geology, which she dropped a year later and enrolled instead for business studies – eventually obtaining an Honours degree in business administration in 2012.
“Growing up I always dreamt of becoming a doctor, but I discovered my love for entrepreneurship as soon as I started my business administration studies. I started doing consultancy while studying at Unam in 2012, by then my company was not registered. Life for me as a teenager was quite fun, but of course with many challenges, including peer pressure. I had low self-esteem, so I found it really hard to resist peer pressure, it was better for me to please my friends than myself,” she says.
Nghishiiko got her first job in a printing shop in Windhoek in 2011 while she was studying. “I was job-hunting door-to-door and asking friends and that’s how I found my first job. I would work from 07h30 to 16h30 and then attend classes after work.
My government loan – which I had for only the year 2008 to 2009 – was discontinued from my third year of study on, not because I had failed, but because I felt I didn’t want to pay back so much money. So I decided to find a job and try to pay for my studies myself.”
In 2010 she encountered serious financial challenges when she could hardly go to school. She had no money for taxi or tuition, so she did not manage to finish her modules that year.
“I went back to continue the same modules in 2011. I had discontinued my loan, because I felt if I was paying for myself I would study harder but I did not even have a job then. I had just told myself I would create and come up with something to generate the money I needed. Unfortunately, it did not happen immediately. I however didn’t give up, I told myself I have to graduate and make my mother proud,” she says.
While at university Nghishiiko was living in a “ghetto” in Okuryangava with her elder sister. Her life was a struggle for a while, to the point where she would go to Unam on security company trucks. “They leave at five am and come back at six to seven pm. So irrespective of what time my classes started and ended, I had to go and come back that time and I would stay there all that time without even a piece of bread,” reminisces Nghishiiko.
After her first year of studies she decided to take up modelling on a part-time basis to boost her confidence. She would also do some work at the mall on Saturdays, earning as little as N$100 per day.
“I always looked for small things that I could do to earn some pocketmoney because I really hated asking from my mother, not because she minded giving me, but I just felt she had too much on her plate. At some points I fell into wrong friendships, but eventually I picked myself up, because I knew I wanted to be someone, achieve something and change my situation,” says Nghishiiko.
Looking for a job was a real challenge and she had to do casual work just to earn experience, which came in handy. “The most important lesson I learnt is that as a youth dreaming of becoming someone, we should not focus on how much (monetary value) when beginning, but rather at what experience you can get.
“Also, don’t overlook small humble jobs, because most of the time it is God preparing you to be humble and be ready for greater things,” she advises.
She encourages the youth to focus on themselves and their goals. “To the youth out there, who are trying to make something of their lives, I just want to tell them that they must keep their heads up and focus on the goal. No matter how many obstacles and hurdles you may face, never give up, never compare yourself to anyone. You have no idea what and which road they have travelled to get where they are.”
From a jobless, afflicted and hopeless young woman, Nghishiiko has become an employer, owner of businesses and a confident, independent young woman. She is currently a full time business consultant at Essence Trading CC, a company that she solely owns, where she has two young women working for her. She is also involved in other trades, such as construction and renovation, to mention a few.