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Gravestones turn into daily bread

Tue, 22 April 2014 02:23
by Timoteus Shihepo

When Theresia Kauapirura longed for change and aspired to become her own boss, she left her job with a gravestone supplier without any concrete future plans.
That was until a Good Samaritan, in the form of a family member, proposed to fund her towards starting a business.
Armed with the experience she had gained from her previous job, she dived into the gravestone business in 2005.
Almost ten years down the line, Theresia and her daughter, Vaanda Kauapirura, co-own Elcon Gravestones House cc.
“After realising she was being under-paid by her previous employer, my mother decided to start her own business with a N$50 000 saving and a Good Samaritan’s help,” Vaanda points out.
With the money they had acquired, they bought all the necessary equipment and started operating from their Wanaheda home in 2006.
In 2009, they moved their business to its current location at Khomasdal Motor Spares.
“City of Windhoek did not approve of our home operations and advised that we move to our new place. The move has since been very benefiting, because we have established a loyal customer-base, as many potential clients now know where we are located,” she adds.
They import gravestones all the way from South Africa, which are cut into their respective shapes, painted and decorated, before finally being sold to individuals or to other local small gravestone businesses.
The smallest gravestone including the head, base, frames and marble crush goes for N$4 600 while the biggest can cost up to N$33 000.
Vaanda who owns 40% shares of the business says their gravestones, especially the large ones, are in demand, because of their quality.
“We sold about five of them recently. Once one buyer gets the big stone, another will come also wanting a similar one and the cycle continues”.
Today, the business employs four workers; two women and two men and despite its rosy progress, Vaanda says it still faces its fair share of challenges, including importing stones from neighbouring South Africa.
“A customer can say they want a tombstone in three days, which can be taxing since we import from South Africa. This hampers overall production, because it takes long for the stones to be delivered here,” she says.
“We can always use local suppliers but we can’t, because they don’t have quality stones, hence the imports,” Vaada explains, defending their choice of supply.
She also says the business is in need of more machinery and despite approaching local commercial banks for funds, they have been turned down on various occasions and are now trying to improve their venture with personal savings.
The company has also introduced a facility in which customers can swipe their cards for payment. With that, the 30-year-old co-entrepreneur boasts how they’re headed for a better, more fruitful future and not even the sky will stop them, especially in a venture not analogous to their gender.