Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

14 December 2012

Namibia: Alternative Medicine On Firm Footing

Dr. Penehafo Shindume and Dr. Petrina Auino opened a new naturopathy practice, Nature's Way, in April this year after many years of study and gathering practical experience in the field. The two doctors have been friends since high school, and completed their studies together at the University of the Western Cape, where they specialised in naturopathy.

During their studies, they worked for naturopaths in South Africa and gained some practical experience in operating a naturopathic practice. On completing their studies, they both registered as Naturopathic Doctors.

When they returned to Namibia, they found no opportunities to parctice their medical skills, and so decided to open a practice for themselves. Their practice now serves a wide spectrum of people interested in natural healing and wellness procedures, and they provide medicine and supplements.

"We were qualified practitioners with nowhere to apply for jobs as we were in a relatively unknown field, so we decided to start our own business and create jobs for ourselves. With the financial assistance of our families we managed to open our retail business and with funding we later were able to expand into a practice offering services and doing consultations," said Dr Auino. One of their main challenges was gaining knowledge in operating a business. "We had to learn a lot on business financials, and we had to educate the public about our profession and how we offer an alternative solution to health care. This was challenging because most people were sceptical and not always open to try our products and service, but this has changed," said Auino.

The partners now have a mentor who assists them to capitalise and grow their business, and with staff and practice management. What they have learned has helped them to grow in leaps and bounds.

The naturopaths applied for and received a loan from the Development Bank to expand the business, acquire medical equipment and stock, and for working capital and marketing. Today they employ two additional female employees to assist with the demands of the practice.

Speaking on their experience of beginning their own business Dr Auino said, "We have learnt that starting a business needs patience and faith, as well as hard work and dedication. The beginning is not only tough, but it can also be very long so you need to be in it for the long run."

They advise prospective entrepreneurs to persevere, believe in their visions and follow their dreams. They stress the importance of planning, researching and compiling a thorough business plan.

"Also remember that it doesn't matter how many doors you have to knock on. Eventually one will open," said Dr Auino.

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