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House of Nalo by Albertina Hamukwaya

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“Self-discipline is of great significance for any entrepreneur – I cannot stress that enough.”

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Albertina Hamukwaya, better known as DJ Alba, is an entrepreneur, renowned DJ & one half of AfroBerries and the founder of House of Nalo. She was born in the north of Namibia at a village called Oikango (near Ongwediva). She, however, considers herself a coastal girl having moved to Henties Bay with her father when she was young for her primary education, and later to Swakopmund where she completed high school. Thereafter, she made the move to Windhoek for her tertiary education, with the aim of studying Business Administration. Due to influence from her family though, Alba later changed her course to Science.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned because Alba herself was unsure about what to study. She thus decided to take time off to work as a Business Development assistant for 4 years at a Supplies & Logistics company. Here her love for business began to blossom, which gave her the reassurance she needed about what she actually wanted to study and possibly do, career-wise. While working, she was also picking up DJ’ing gigs and it was around that time that her music career as DJ Alba started taking off. After being retrenched from her job, there was both a need and an opportunity to revive her small bracelet/jewelry business: Afrodeepstah (named after a House music genre) – and so House of Nalo was born in 2017. Three years down the line and the startup has gone on to be a two-time nominee in the Simply You Magazine Awards as well as bagging Second place in the Oshikandela NMLO Challenge 2019.

Tell us about House of Nalo and the products & services you offer.

“House of Nalo initially started with bracelets. My love for bracelets can be traced as far back as 2010; looking at my Facebook pictures now makes me cringe at some of those bracelet combinations and how I would wear up to 10 of them on 1 wrist!

I went on to add earrings and neckpieces, which are to be properly launched later during the year. House of Nalo aims to be a company that can bring ideas to life, which is why we have a special Personalization aspect. Even though Namibia is so limited with production material we always try to create items that bring value to our clients, as per their specific needs.”

What inspired you to start this business?

“I have always loved creating things. Growing up I considered myself a really weird kid [laughter]; I would ride bikes and play soccer with the boys but I also loved sewing so I always had the best-dressed doll out of my female friends. My mother had a sewing machine so sometimes she would help me put the clothes I sketched together, otherwise I would do it with a needle and thread. When I started making bracelets and necklaces for myself, it led to my friends asking me about my pieces which is basically how this all started.”

What do you enjoy most about being your own boss, and did you always know you wanted to delve into entrepreneurship?

“Never in a million years did I think of entrepreneurship for myself but I always had good grades in the subject line. However, the feeling of creating something that people actually love is what fueled me. It prompted me to research business concepts and study people who turned their talent and passion into a feasible business. These same principles are the ones I apply when it comes to marketing my brand in terms of music. Being my own boss means I’m more flexible with my time, yes, but it also requires a lot of sacrifice and I constantly remind myself that I have to manage my time too. Self-discipline is of great significance for any entrepreneur; I cannot stress that enough. Being your own boss also requires you to radically change your mindset, this is a vital skill to possess as a business owner.”

What sets your products/services apart from those in the same industry?

“House of Nalo offers a Personalization Section, wherein our clients have the option of creating a design of their own or customizing our existing designs to meet their specifications. This process adds a human element to our brand as we get to learn about our clients and their preferences. By doing this, we indirectly gain insight on where to possibly improve. People also love exclusivity so we try not to produce too many of the same items to preserve that element of exclusivity.”

What challenges have you encountered on your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome some of them?

“Most of our Namibian and African shaped earring designs are hand-sketched on paper and taken to laser-cutters for cutting so I was shocked to find a Chinese shop that had exactly replicated 2 of our designs for resale. But instead of taking major action, I looked at it from a different angle because I must be doing something right if my designs have gotten as far as worthy of being copied.”

Do you have a business philosophy? If so, what is it?

“I have quite a few but if I have to highlight one it would be: Always create value for your clients, they come first. The effect you have on your clients is the most valuable currency you can acquire.”

What advice would you give to someone trying to break into this industry?

“It’s alright to draw inspiration from someone else’s product but the problem comes when you want to copy and paste that exact idea; it’s always best to be innovative because we cannot all be inventors. Try to avoid involving too many people in your business too early on; study your business structure and know how everything runs before you involve other parties like partners and investors. Have a clear plan on where you want your business to be in the next e.g. 5 years and remember to put providing value to clients above anything else.”

How important is networking as a growth component of any startup?

“It’s an enormous part of any business model. Networking allows you to explore potential growth areas for your business. Sharing ideas and tips with people in the same field is especially fruitful as you get to learn about their experiences and how they overcame them. In contrast, specialty networking should not be your only focus though because conversing with experts in different business areas or industry can really assist you in getting a feel of how to navigate your business onto the right path.”

What role does your startup play in 1) contributing to society and 2) in nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Namibia?

“Unfortunately we are not big enough to employ people just yet, but hopefully by the end of this year or as the state of emergency improves all this will change. Rome was not built in a day so consistency is always key to longevity. Every SME greatly contributes to the growth of the economy as they help keep money circulating in and around the country.”

Startups in Namibia, and all over the world, are facing an unprecedented crisis in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic; how has your startup adjusted to the situation and/or assisted in disseminating information, combatting the spread of the virus, etc.?

“House of Nalo currently runs on an e-commerce business model, thus our focus has been trying to stay afloat through digital means like social media. Sales have slightly decreased due to the outbreak which is understandable as people will opt to save more than spending. However, despite not knowing what lies ahead, we are hopeful and we keep the faith because this will pass.”

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Cell: +26481 200 0165

Email: hercc23@gmail.com

Facebook: House of Nalo

Instagram: @house_of_nalo

Twitter: @houseofnalo1

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