by Tuyeimo Haidula

APART from a loss of income, Shiwa the Baker’s biggest defeat as a result of Covid-19 was that she could not interact with her baker family.

TOGETHER WE’RE BETTER … Namibian baker Shiwomeho Kalla says local entrepreneurs should collaborate to help them thrive in difficult times and to capture larger audiences. Photo: Contributed

The entrepreneur had several baking classes planned countrywide when president Hage Geingob declared a state of emergency and announced the subsequent lockdown at the end of March this year.

Needless to say, Shiwomeho Kalla had to cancel her plans

Although the strict lockdown was lifted and we are currently in stage 3 of the lockdown exit strategy, it has not been business as usual for Kalla.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put small and medium enterprises (SMEs) under enormous pressure, and the baker, whose shop is at Ongwediva, has not been spared.

“I also lost out on interacting with my Shiwa the Baker family. Baking picked up though, because people needed a lot of pick-me-up moments,” she says.

Kalla shares her thoughts with The Namibian on how small businesses in Namibia can survive beyond Covid-19.

STRATEGISE

“I will not lie. I panicked when we recorded our first two cases [of Covid-19] followed by a lockdown. It’s about the unknown. How long will this continue, I kept asking myself. Weddings were put on hold,” Kalla says.

She says the Covid-19 situation is hugely challenging, “but we are all in this together”.

“Small businesses will need to refine and enhance their trade so they are ready to operate efficiently and grow as soon as opportunities arise again,” she says.

ONLINE PRESENCE

Kalla says business is increasingly conducted online, and a professional website and social media presence are of immense value to smaller businesses. It offers a relatively low-cost marketing opportunity, she says.

She also encourages businesses to pay attention to consumer trends.

Kalla says customers could place orders telephonically at her boutique during the lockdown, and Martha Shiyuku, who works for her, would come in to hand items over to clients.

“This is the time to get your online presence right, and make it as convenient as possible for prospective customers to find you,” she says.

LOOK AFTER STAFF

Kalla says before giving up, employers should understand their business is not about them only.

“There were no salary cuts for my employees, but my salary has been cut so I could accommodate my employees. For businesses to hit the ground running after lockdown, a productive and healthy workforce will be essential. It is therefore vitally important for employers to safeguard the health and well-being of staff as far as possible,” she says.

COLLABORATION VERSUS COMPETITION

She has partnered with Karibu flowers, owned by Mutindi Jacobs.

“See how you can benefit from each other’s brands. People can pop into my boutique for fresh Karibu flowers,” she says.

Kalla’s boutique bakery’s supply has been affected, because some of her stock comes from South Africa and China, but due to the disturbance in the global supply some local shops and companies are also running low on stock.

Huletts, for example, ran out of icing sugar, resulting in a countrywide shortage.

Kalla’s boutique bakery makes premium baking fondant, cake boards and sells baking and party supplies.

She has also published her own recipe book, which she uses as a teaching aid.

Kalla says she plans a baking academy, and Namibians should expect a “monster brand” within five years.

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