Windhoek — On completion of their studies at the University of the Western Cape, where they specialised in natural medicine, Dr Penehafo Shindume and Dr Petrina Auino started a natural health centre that focuses on alternative and complementary medicine.
Their company, Nature's Way, caters to a range of people interested in natural healing and wellness procedures, medicine and supplements. The two doctors and business partners have been friends since high school and went on to study naturopathy together, after which they registered as naturopathic doctors. During their studies, they worked for naturopaths in South Africa and gained invaluable practical experience in operating a naturopathic practice.
The business, which offers naturopathic consultations, full body scans, natural medicine and various therapies, started in April 2010, after Shindume and Auino struggled to find work because of their career choice. "We were qualified practitioners with nowhere to go as we were in a relatively unknown field. We decided to start our own business and create jobs for ourselves. With financial assistance from our families, we managed to open our retail business and with funding were able to expand into a practice offering services and consultations," says Auino.
As young people starting out in an unknown field, the two faced a lack of finance, getting people to believe in the trade and limited knowledge on how to operate a business, all of them challenges they have managed to overcome.
"We had to learn a lot on the business side of things and had to educate customers on the workings of our profession and how we present an alternative to conventional health care. It was challenging, as people were generally skeptical and not open to trying out our products and services. This has, thankfully, changed," Auino added.
The partners have a mentor who helped with capital to grow the business by looking at everyday aspects such as staff issues and practice management. Shindume and Auino received a loan from the DBN to expand the business, and acquire medical equipment and stock, working capital and marketing. The two want to grow the business into a leading company in the natural medicine industry with branches across the country.
They are also looking at diversifying their services, branching into the health food industry, as consumer demand is becoming more geared towards health and wellness.
"We have learnt that starting a business needs patience, faith, hard work and dedication. The beginning is tough and the process can be protracted, so you need to be in it for the long run," says Auino.