VIIVI Nangombe Haidula (VH) has carved herself a niche in the furniture industry,
having established Lifestyle Unique Design CC, a company that specialises in sourcing high quality and customized furniture. The business was triggered by her desire to raise money to expose children from disadvantaged backgrounds to the world and gain useful skills to succeed in life. In an interview with Confidente (C) recently, Haidula spoke about her humble upbringing that played a pivotal role in the woman she is today. She also spoke in detail about her business that sources modern furniture for any setup. C: Briefly tell us about yourself and upbringing.
VH: Born and raised in Omatunhu, Uukwaluudhi in the Omusati region by a single mother
during the apartheid era was not easy. Mom is the least educated of seven siblings, a fact that drives me to thrive in life with the aim to prove that a child of a non-academic mother can succeed in life
provided one set their goals realistically. I’m the 5th child of five girls and a boy. I never looked at mom as poor, for we never went to bed on empty stomachs. She worked hard to see us through junior school. I joined the Namibia Defence Force in 1996 to be among the first independent Namibia military intakes, with the aim to train and be able to demine and handle all type
of weapons. My humble upbringing has shaped me into who I am today. But it does not define who I am as a person nor dictate what I’m capable of.
C: Tell us about the establishment of Unique Design. VH: In 2015 my friends from Switzerland and I visited my primary school Ombahe Combined School. At the time, I bought Ndapona Shikangala’s book “The Namibian Princess”, pens, chocolates and distributed it to the children as a playful way of learning Namibian geography. I was so overwhelmed by the reception that I decided to set up a business in order to raise money which could help me give young children world exposure. Lifestyle Unique Design CC was registered in March 2017 with the aim of sourcing high quality customized furniture upon customer order. Our products are not mass produced but tailored designed items, manufactured for a specific customer (individual, government, private business, schools, hospitals, NGOs, etc). Our furniture
are imported from EU zone and China in hand-picked factories, we also buy from locals in rural areas.
We source modern furniture for: Home – living room, bedroom, dining room, home décor items,
wine glasses, wine decanters, carpets; office furniture; institutions such as hospital beds, school chairs and desks; after sales support and budgeting, planning how to finance
your furniture. More information can be found on our company website: www.uniquedesign.com.na or on our Facebook Page Lifestyle Unique Design. The goal is to raise funds enabling us to set up youth centers in rural areas where kids can gain useful skills to succeed in life. We will then work with necessary stake holders such as the Ministry of Education on exchange programs permits when the time comes.
C: What are challenges facing the company? VH: Planning ahead is one virtue which largely lacks in most of Namibia culture. Most people want the furniture yesterday but inquiring about it today. Namibians, especially the previously disadvantaged majority, are finding it hard to understand that one does not have to just buy what is on stock
but they can also tell us which manufacturer they want their furniture from and we will import it and bring home. People buy furniture after the house or room is completed when they are under
pressure to furnish it. The main challenge for unique as a start-up is the high rental costs. There is no favourable environment for start-ups in this regard in Windhoek. Malls are demanding at least N$40 000 fixed rental then 30 percent on margin, then 3 percent for marketing. Another challenge we face is finding the right employees. The most challenging though are government processes and trade
agreements. For example my company’s original files went “missing” at BIPA but to this day no one can explain how something like that can happen. China imports are penalized
with high customs duties which naturally results in increase of products’ sale. C: How has the market reacted to your services? VH: The market reaction is so far positive. People are interested in our services and products. We had 2 000 likes on Facebook within a week of creating our page back in October 2017 and currently have 13 419 followers. Over 200 people have registered for our newsletter. C: With a saturated market offering similar services, what makes the company live up to its name, unique? VH: We do our best to stay unique by offering customers to order furniture which is not available in the Namibian market so far. Modern, uniquely designed and customized for that specific individual
or company. We allow customers to show their creativity by designing their own furniture which we can send to factory to produce. Such designs cannot be sold to another customer.
Customers are then liable to ensure they are not infringing copyrights laws. We have standard platforms from our handpicked factories that can be customized too. People can tell us their wishes and we will search for them to findthe ideal furniture and by doing so, giving them time to dedicate to work, family or other tasks. We value time and if one should wait in our Windhoek Décor House showroom, we ensure a cup of Nespresso, water, various teas and Swiss chocolates are served to
shorten the wait. For us, customers are individuals not just another number.
C: Tell us about your career path in the business and the memories as well as achievements you cherish most?
VH: It was not a straight path, but one full of obstacles and mountains to climb. My mom and grand mom could not afford to pay university for me so I joined NDF. I later moved to Switzerland where I worked in international corporations mainly in finance departments. The nice thing in Switzerland is that one can work during the day and go to university in the evening. I gained business, people management experience in various industries such as software and hardware, pharmaceutical, nuclear, solar, telecom, medtech and consulting etc. Being promoted to accounting manager within a year of joining one of the world’s respected Strategic Consulting company which mostly hires only graduates from the best university’s in the world was an acknowledgement of hard work. I also successfully completed military training as well as passed an Air Traffic Control Course in Tanzania. C: What advice do you have for fellow women keen on starting a similar business?
VH: Follow your dreams. Set your goals realistically. Do not ignore negative comments, they help
you get better. Do your research, write a real business plan have it checked by a critical expert, read,
listen, learn and unlearn. Furniture business is a capital-intensive business, cut down on make-up, Brazilian hair and save. Money should be the mean to everything but not the motive. The best is to turn your hobby into your business.
C: Just what do you do for a little fun?
VH: Life is too short to be anything but happy. I do whatever my heart desires for fun like bungee jumping, travelling, reading all types of books. I love to cook, sport, music, gourmet dining, attending cultural events, spending time with loved ones and doing community work.
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