For many of us when we think of an entrepreneur, the picture that comes to mind is that of profit-driven individual who will stop at nothing to maximise money even if it is at the expense of his or her employees.
But that is not the case with Tonota-born Jakoba, real name Ketshephaone Jacob, who is the driving force behind The Bulb World, a 100 percent youth-owned and youth-run LED bulb manufacturing company based in Selibe-Phikwe that makes more efficient lights.
In an interview with The Business Weekly & Review, Jacob described his company as a brand that is fully committed to supporting and empowering young people. “We believe in the youth and their ability to do and accomplish things,” Jacob said. “That is why we have 65 full time young people as our employees. The Bulb World is a 100 percent youth and youth-run. We are a living testament that the youth can.”
At the company premises, he points to a young woman who began as a front desk admin officer but was subsequently sponsored to study for a degree in Human Resource Management. “We agreed that we would invest in her education as a way of empowering her,” Jacob says. “We agreed also that she would use her Human Resource Management skills to help us to empower other employees. It was a win-win situation.”
The young woman in question is now The Bulb World’s HR Officer and is doing as agreed. Queried about his entrepreneurship, Jacob narrates the story of a young man compelled to grow up quickly and assume ‘adult’ responsibilities after his father’s untimely death. “The reality is that after my dad passed on, I had to grow up quickly and step up my game,” he says.
“The reality is, after my father passed away, I had to quickly grow up and step up my game. At the time, my mother was raising me, my sister, her siblings and her extended family all through the same salary. Going through this journey with her, I experienced the suffering that she went through and I took it upon myself to be the support that my mother needed. The hardships I saw my own mother go through are not what I want to see another person go through. This is why I became an entrepreneur so that I could empower other Batswana,” he says.
Although life had been difficult, Jacob says he did not become an entrepreneur out of desperation but because of a passion that had been there since his childhood. After completing his tertiary training, he worked as teacher and later for a local mining company. But entrepreneurship was where he wanted to be and so he was soon pursuing it.
The young man has large plans for his growing empire, one of them being market expansion into the SADC region and other African countries. The Bulb World has already penetrated the South African market and is currently working with the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) for a distributor deal in the DRC.
‘Our expansion plan is divided into phases for easier management and targeting,” Jacob explains. “For the next two years, our focus is on penetrating the SADC region and we have already started talks and listings in South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique to that end. Following our penetration into SADC, we will proceed to distribute to Africa in its entirety.”