“Everything that is big once started small so you should never give up.”
Mwaalwa Justine Shikongo is a 21-year-old student and entrepreneur, born and raised in Windhoek. She attended primary school at Emma Hoogenhout and went on to matriculate at Windhoek Technical High School in 2016 . Mwaalwa is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management at the Namibian University of Science & Technology (NUST). Her academic and business aspirations are two independent aspects of her life but she believes that they could eventually align and work hand in hand.
Mwaalwa’s father passed on at very young age so she was raised solely by her mother, playing both parental figures in her life. In her own words, “That is how MJ Creations came to be and what it is now about.” She always wanted to be able to help and give back to her mother, as well as to make both her parents proud while honoring her late father’s memory.
Tell us about M.J Creations, the products & services you offer and your team.
“M.J Creations was named after me as the founder: Mwaalwa Justine Shikongo. I established the business in 2019, enlisting the help of an abroad supplier, and I currently own and manage it solely. M.J Creations specializes in customized products such as cellphone covers, plated gold & silver necklaces and bracelets, keychains, plated rings, pillowcases and gift hampers for specials occasions such as Valentine’s Day and birthdays. I offer my clients a chance to make their visions come true by creating products they come up with. As my business is still young, I plan on expanding in future by hiring fellow youth to help alleviate the unemployment rate.”
What inspired you to start this business?
“Spending most of my childhood and holidays in the village, I was exposed to business at an early age through my grandmother who runs a kiosk at home. She has inspired me to work hard to be able to afford the life that I desire. MJ Creations is a result of my imagination and creative personality. I turned my passion for giving special gifts into a business where people can now not only buy customized products for themselves but also for others. Being raised by strong black women like my mother has taught me the importance of being self-sufficient and independent.”
What do you enjoy most about being your own boss, and did you always know you wanted to delve into entrepreneurship?
“Being my own boss allows me overall creative control over my products & business, ensuring that I put out only the best. It gives me the benefit of being flexible with my time that way I can also focus on school, family and leisure. I have made a lot of mistakes earlier on, but have since focused on doing better and learning from failures as it is crucial for growth.
Did I always know I was going to be a business owner? Honestly not. I, like many other fellow Namibians, have always thought to do well in school, look to the government to get a good job and that’s it, which is why I credit myself for reaching this level of success in the first year for that matter. I do this for myself and I can only hope my actions inspire even just one other person to pursue their dreams and work for himself/herself.”
What sets your products/services apart from those in the same industry?
“I work closely with my clients ensuring that I narrow down all their ideas into a solid, pragmatic product; my designs are unique; and lastly, I stress the importance of good quality & exceptional customer service. When you order a product from MJ Creations, you will be sure to find a friend in me as well. Furthermore, I pride myself on offering unique and infinite designs as per customer order, therefore no two products are the same.”
What challenges have you encountered on your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome some of them?
“The obstacles I have encountered include delays in shipment (whereby the products do not arrive as scheduled), overbooking, and of course the global pandemic. It has affected me extensively by causing my business to come to a temporary but abrupt halt.
To combat these challenges, I had to make a few changes such as using a different shipment company, upgrading my packaging to improve customer satisfaction and I have set up a company website which provides a quick & easy way for customers to order. It also offers me consumer insight and allows for growth opportunities. Thus far the biggest challenge has been having to juggle being a good student whilst running a fast-growing business; to overcome this I have had to seek help from family members to help with deliveries and pickups. I credit myself as a strong-willed personality with the drive & motivation to succeed and keep going despite circumstances.”
What is your business philosophy?
“MJ Creations lives by the mantra ‘Dream it, we create it’ “
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into this industry?
“I would tell an upcoming entrepreneur that everything that is big once started small so you should never give up. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “You become what they believe not what they think or want.”; therefore, take the leap of faith and follow up your passion.”
How important is networking as a growth component of any startup?
“Networking is crucial when starting a business; you need to interact with as many people as possible. Not only is it good for advertising yourself & your business, but it connects you with prospective mentors, partners & clients and provides insight into the latest industry trends. Networking also allows me to learn what type of people I am associating with and if they will add anything meaningful to my growth.”
What role does your startup play in 1) contributing to society and 2) in nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Namibia?
“Currently, M.J Creations does not employ anyone; however, it is in the pipeline to expand the team to include more people. I’d like to think that I am making a difference, even if it may only be within the circles of my family and friends, helping out with bills and so on – I am well on my way! Furthermore, every SME represents an opportunity to cut down on the scale of unemployment.”
What recommendations would you make towards the improvement of the operations of startups?
“All start-ups require a financial plan, a supportive background that will help grow the business, and of course confidence which goes considerably well with a focused mindset and self-discipline. Start-up owners should invest in themselves by attending business forums, reading books & being well-educated on how to run their business, and if possible, getting a mentor in the process.”
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.?
“Most of M.J Creations’ products are shipped into Namibia and due to the pandemic & state of emergency lockdown, the shipping was moved from being delivered into the country via air transport to using the sea – that way I could still get my products in a timely fashion so as to not disappoint my clients. We decided to use FedEx and although it took longer than expected we managed to get all the products to Namibia. All products are shipped in tightly concealed plastic bags to avoid direct contact and to curb the spread of the virus.”
Tel: 085 205 0020
Instagram: @m.j_creations_ / @Mwaalwa_Mosante_Shikongo
Twitter: @MJCREATIONS7 / @Mwaalwa_Mosante