As Enrich Stores celebrates more than a year in operation, we take a look at a store that has all but reached a world-class status. “Enter Enrich and you see that it is either on the same level with, or beats some of, the international retail brands we know,” says one Enrich enthusiast. We interview National University of Lesotho (NUL) trained minds behind Enrich, Maine Maine and Refuoe Monaheng.
Of course there are more in the founding team and they include Thipatšoeu Mobe and Lehloonolo Phooko who also hail from the School in the Roma Valley.
It was pop and funfair (ua mpona ka u bona), as Enrich Stores opened officially last Saturday, more than a year after it started its operations. When you enter the store, you cannot help but marvel at the status the store has gained in that period. The shelves were filled to the brim. Enrich surprisingly had everything from the Cold Storage Department with all its delicacies to a Bakery and a Butchery!
[You can still buy shares at M1500-00 per share @ Enrich. Come to our offices located at Mafafa area, just opposite our supermarket, Thola-Tu Complex first floor, along KingsWay road Maseru.]
“As we celebrate this day,” introduced the soft-spoken and obviously shy Mr Maine Maine, the Chairman of the Board of Enrich Holdings Ltd, “we look back to what has been a painful but eventful journey. It was not easy raising up the business of this nature and sometimes we don’t want to share those kinds of stories with our investors.”
Well, those who know what it takes to build a business, any business at all, let alone a business of this scale and influence, will understand what Maine was talking about.
He said there was a time when they had to take all the money they had collected from investors, “and put it into a 12 month rent when we didn’t have anything on the shelves and we left zero amount in the bank account,” just so they could secure the space!
You need to have a faith of saints to take such risks.
“Yet here we are,” he continued, even as he was flanked by an army of jubilant employees who now number to a mind-blowing 85! “The store is full, and it competes with or even out-competes, the well-known brands in all its departments.”
When Enrich started, the most impatient souls among us were already deriding it for its “empty shelves.”
Apparently, they didn’t know what was coming.
It was hail, not rain! It was hurricane, not thunderstorm!
On the other side of the story, we have another unsung hero within the whole episode in the likes of Mr Refuoe Monaheng. “Had we not had the foresight to start this store,” said the NUL trained Chemist, “well, I don’t know what I would be doing now, maybe I could have joined the statistics among the unemployed.”
He said he still recalled a course he did while he was still at the NUL; Industrial Chemistry. “In the course, we were not only taught how to make products that could go into the market. We were also encouraged to go into business. I took the advice.”
One of the most amazing things about Enrich Stores is that even as it is filled to the brim, it doesn’t have a debt. That fact left the representatives of the banks present at the opening ceremony salivating. “Our doors are still open,” said one representative of Nedbank.
Why and how did these young men, with zero experience and tons of vision, found such a consequential store which clearly marks the turning point in the history of this country?
Their answer will surprise you!
“We surveyed the business world, the entire globe, and we noted something interesting,” Maine said. “Great businesses rarely ever belong to one person. They belong to many, many people.”
Maine might not have been aware of it. However, by so saying, he was striking deep into Lesotho’s own weaknesses when it comes to business. In Lesotho, business is about me, me, me. When legends who made great businesses die, we don’t only mourn them, we mourn their businesses too, “he was such a hard worker (e ne e le seberekane sa Motšoeneng). Had he still been alive, this business would be far by now.”
The fact that big businesses around the world are owned by the public is an open secret. The only reason we had to wait for these young men to pave the way for us is only because, well, we are we, aren’t we?
The two visionaries thanked the NUL Innovation Hub for their role in the development of Enrich. “The Hub gave us legitimacy when we needed it most,” Maine said, “They marketed us and they are now testing Basotho products that we sell in our stores. At one point, we just had only three shelves in the whole store when the Innovation Hub drove armies of people to appreciate and invest more in us. We are pleased to see the Hub creating leaders.”
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