By Honorine Kaze, Prime Focus Magazine
We all want change, but no one is prepared to change. We all expect someone to bring the change to us”, said Leap Holdings Pty Ltd Managing Director, Ally Angula during an interview with Prime Focus Magazine.
Refusing to wait for change to be brought to her by someone else, she took a leap of faith in 2010 when she co-founded Leap Holdings Pty (Ltd) to initiate the change she wanted to see in Namibia and impact a million lives.
Amongst many of her ventures operated under Leap Holdings Pty (Ltd) is the clothing brand My Republik based at the Grove Mall in Kleine Kuppe, Windhoek, which recently celebrated its first anniversary.
Remembering the year that was, Angula recalls an emotional journey of trials and errors filled with various small victories such as selling their first shirt, opening their store in October, receiving new machines in the Vitvlei factory, celebrating when they reached their million sales’ mark in June, successfully launching the store and the fact that customers have received the brand well.
While the My Republik brand store was launched last year, its business journey started long before with planning, designing, the choosing of patterns, sewing and strategizing needed to make it all happen. All of the brand’s small victories also came with endless hours of preparation and challenges.
“The year went by very quickly. It had its own challenges, as it is not easy setting-up and running an integrated business whereby we do the manufacturing and retailing of the products ourselves”, she says.
She adds that it has all been a learning process from the retail side and also of the manufacturing side of things; “For example, at the beginning, we had started with clothing lines with mostly average sizes such as S 6, 8 and so on, and fewer products of certain other sizes. It was, however, mostly due to the production constraint side of things. We have since then started on working on a bigger production to cater for more and various sizes”, she says.
She notes the whole process has been all new to them and has been a learning process. They work tirelessly on constantly improving and working on the products to achieve the product they desire.
“We are very grateful that our brand has been received quite well, and we are even grateful that we have our own designers, which allows us to keep doing all altercations needed ourselves until the product is perfect”, she continues.
Having ventured into the clothing industry with a vision to create jobs, Angula has been doing just that as she currently employs over 80 people.
“We wanted to invest in an industry which could afford us to create jobs rapidly. We were initially told that we will not be successful, that Ramatex had tried and failed, and we will have to compete with Chinese retailers on the price terms. However, we were not going to be discouraged by all that, and instead concentrated on creating a brand which would have all the components and qualities which make it a premium brand. We did just that, and furthermore, it is an understandable product which can be exported to anywhere”, she states.
On her current payroll of the whole group, including Leap Agribusiness Pty (Ltd), Manufacturing and Leap Retail Pty (Ltd), she has a staff complement of about 84 people, with an imminent increase looming with her new two clothing stores in Maerua Mall with about four to seven more employees in both stores.
This increase of employees will also come from her factory being set in Witvlei. By January, she will have about 100 employees on her payroll.
“It is not easy having such a lot of people employed by you. Therefore, I have to make sure I conduct my business in a sustainable manner so that I can continue to do what I set myself to do, which is to create and sustain jobs in the country”, she notes.
“I also have to make sure that my employees understand that everyone’s action impacts on the whole group,” she points out.
Besides Windhoek, she is opening another clothing store in Swakopmund in the new mall during May 2016. She is further working on an online website, which will showcase her clothing brand so that people from various towns can access her products.
Her clothing brand moves from start to finish, which include designing, sewing, marketing, distribution and sales, are done consecutively under Leap Manufacturing Pty (Ltd) and Leap Retail Pty (Ltd).
In July this year, the My Republik brand was crowned the Best Woman-Owned Business at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES).
The busy lady and frequent multi-tasker, who is also part of various Boards of Directors such as that of Bank of Namibia and Rossing Uranium, did not just focus on her clothing industry business ventures as she also ventured into the agricultural territory under Agri-Business Pty Ltd,which produces local crops which are sold all over the country to reduce Namibia’s dependency on imported food produce.
This is a sector which is not easy to settle in as at this point, the country is still struggling to set a successful agricultural sector due to various obstacles.
“In Namibia, we have certain issues, such as access to land and water scarcity due to our climate, which made it pretty difficult for us to own land for farming. We have also been hit by the lack of agricultural skills locally because even those educated in the agricultural sector are not prepared to work on fields. We had instances where we had three qualified agronomists whom we employed, but they could not handle the pressure of working on the fields and left us”, she laments.
Furthermore, the lack of seeds from local sources as they mostly have to be imported, is another challenge. Imported seeds become costly as one has to add the transport costs on top of the seeds’ costs.
“Overall, if you look globally, the agricultural sector is subsidized because there is a lot which goes into it and a lot of risks that farmers take up. Despite the high costs that a farmer puts into farming, in the end the consumer still has to get the produce at a lower price. Therefore, the government will have to subsidize those farmers for a certain percentage on certain utilities, such as electricity or fuel. However, in Namibia, we do not have such protection at these points as farmers”, she emphasizes.
Despite those challenges, she notes that one keeps fighting and starts all the conversations with the relevant stakeholders needed to bring change to the agricultural sector.
Due to her multi-entrepreneurial spirit, Angula was the first Namibian to be nominated this year as one of the Young Global Leaders (YGL), confirming that she is headed in the right direction towards fulfilling her vision to bring about change and create employment. The YGL identifies the most exceptional leaders under the age of 40.
“It is an honour and also a validation that what we are doing is the right kind of work which needs to be done to bring about change through creating jobs. However, we need to make it sustainable“, she happily says. Through the YGL, we understand, support and guide each other through the ventures”, she adds.
As part of YGL, their main role is to educate people about the YGL’s global goals.
“Through our brand, we have set out to adopt the YGL goal number 8, which is the ‘creation of decent work and economic growth’ “, she says.
Angula, who is a chartered accountant by profession and was an audit partner at KPMG for six years before venturing into business, never really planned to get into business until 2010 when she felt the universe conspired to bring her to that point.
“While I never had any desire to be part of any company which was not into audit, I just felt the drive for creating something for change in 2010. At that time, there was a high unemployment rate, and the universe conspired through what I was experiencing and what was happening to make me take that step.
“I realized that you cannot give people decency if they are not working. So, the only way that the country can create jobs is through manufacturing. Thinking otherwise would be fooling ourselves”, she asserts.
This busy entrepreneur, consultant, mother and wife is set to keep doing what she is doing and more, and keep following her vision of empowering one million lives through her endeavours. She said this journey has been a road full of trial and error, but also of perseverance, hard work, determination and zest to keep doing what she set out to do.
“I am trying to find my own way of doing things; sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it wrong (it is a learning process), but one needs to keep trying until you make it right. In order to succeed, it is necessary to find your authentic self as it will be your base for making decisions. If you are not comfortable with who you are, you will not be comfortable with decision-making which would suit the business venture. Yet, leading a business is full of decisionmaking”, she accentuates.