Piet grew up in a family business environment in Palapye. She recalls that her family was into the retail business in the early 1960s and ‘70s. “I was very active and worked in the family business at a young age,” she says, adding that she grew up to be passionate about business.
After completing her senior secondary school education, Piet studied Ranch Management and Business Management at Botswana Open University. “I studied Ranch Management because I am passionate about poultry,” she explains. “I wanted to run my own poultry. Regarding Business Management, I wanted to acquire the right skills to be able to manage my business.”
In 1999, when she was only 24 years old, Piet established her own poultry farming business at Paje, just west of Serowe. But the business folded after a while. Piet says it was because she failed to penetrate the market. “The poultry market is hard to penetrate, and if you have limited resources you cannot make it because you compete with moneyed and experienced businesspeople,” she says.
In 2008, after doing some market research, Piet opened a butchery store in her home village of Palapye. “The business did well; so much that I felt I now wanted to expand into something bigger and more challenging,” she reveals.
But she needed financing in order to expand. “I had seen a couple of adverts that the National Development Bank (NDB) can actually finance small citizen entrepreneurs for business expansions and even start-ups,” Piet recalls. She decided to take advantage of the then mushrooming SaveRite business by opening franchises in places away from Gaborone and other centres. “I approached NDB about my plan and they agreed to finance me. They eventually gave me the funds in 2017. That was when I set up my first SaveRite franchise business in Palapye,” says Piet.
By opening the SaveRite business, she was actually expanding her butchery into a supermarket with an in-house butchery. NDB is a development finance institution (DFI) established by an Act of Parliament. Piet’s business, which is styled Grocery Mart (Pty) Ltd, was financed by NDB under its retail business financing category, specifically the bank’s commercial retail projects that includes supermarkets, large scale retail businesses and general dealers.
Further, NDB finances specialised retailers like service (petrol) stations, restaurants, furniture shops, funeral parlours, florists, butcheries and hair salons. The bank also finances commercial projects like business services, hotel and tourism projects, and civic and educational institutions as community projects. Through the NDB financing, businesses are given funds for working capital, machinery and equipment, as well as for construction and refurbishment of these types of businesses.
With NDB funding, Piet’s business boomed. In 2018, still under NDB financing, she opened another SaveRite franchise in Serowe, and the third one in Kgagodi in 2019. Piet opened her fourth SaveRite supermarket in Palapye in 2020. “I will be opening two more stores soon,” she reveals. But there have been challenges along her expansion. “There are workers who actually steal stock and money,” she says. “That is a challenge I will always have to deal with.”
Piet adds further that her business grew because of patience and perseverance. “I also took my time to conduct market research,” she notes. “I did not give up when I faced challenges of market penetration. I want to advise aspiring businesspeople, especially young people that they need to learn from people with business experience. They need mentors who have experienced the challenges that every business goes through.”
Now that she has established her own footprint through her own SaveRite franchises, Piet wants to re-establish that poultry farming business which collapsed because of lack of access to the market. “I now have a small market share which I plan on using to build a poultry farming empire,” she says, adding that NDB will finance her expansion.