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 doctors and 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, was started in April 2010, as 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; so 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," said Auino.
As young people starting out in an unknown field, the duo faced a lack of finance, getting people to believe in the trade, and limited knowledge in how to operate a business - all challenges they 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 service. This has, thankfully, changed," Auino said.
The partners have a mentor who helped them with capital and also to grow the business, by looking at every-day aspects like staff issues and practice management.
Shindume and Auino received a loan from the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) to expand the business, acquire medical equipment and stock, working capital and marketing.
Shindume and Auino hope to be a leading company in the delivery of services and products in the natural medicine industry with branches in different parts of the country. They also hope to diversify and strengthen their wellness component by opening a natural medical health spa and enter into the health food industry, as consumer demand is becoming more geared towards health and wellness.
Relating their experience of starting their own business, Auino said: "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."
They advise prospective entrepreneurs to persevere and follow their dreams, stressing the importance of planning, researching and putting together a thorough business plan. "Also remember that it doesn't matter how many doors you have to knock on, one will eventually open," Auino said.