Windhoek — Seven years ago entrepreneur Selma Jonas started a tourism business named Namibia Express Travel Tours and Information Centre. Due to capacity constraints, Jonas last year approached Bank Windhoek's Emerging Small and Medium Enterprises (ESME) branch, with a need to expand her business. Her application was successful and she now employs four people - a full-time driver, two travel consultants and an international consultant based in Scotland.
Namibia Express Travel Tours and Information Centre is registered with the Namibia Tourism Board as a booking agent. It offers flight bookings, and free travel information to local and international tourists. Additionally the business sells regional and international holiday packages, car rentals, tours and a variety of tourism related offerings. The story of the sole owner, Jonas, is one of determination.
Jonas' story is of humble beginnings. Her career in hospitality and tourism started 23 years ago when she worked at a local hotel during the school holidays. "I started off as a cleaner and then a waitress. When I eventually matriculated from Academia High School, I was offered a full-time job as a switchboard operator," said Jonas. She strived for success and was subsequently promoted to banqueting and conference coordinator and later to receptionist.
"I enjoyed working, but decided to further my experience. I resigned from the hotel and joined a clothing retail group as branch manager in Keetmanshoop and later Karasburg," Jonas said. With retail experience under her belt, Jonas joined a chain of tourism companies as a reservations consultant for six years. She became an expert in the field of hospitality, travel and tourism.
"It is my passion and talent," she said.
Jonas faced many challenges when she opened her own business in 2010. At the time she lacked financial discipline and proper business planning skills.
"I have been a Bank Windhoek customer for the past 23 years. I love the bank's culture and customer service. Since I approached the ESME branch, my business has grown tremendously. I am psychologically and financially matured due to the advice I received from the ESME team," said Jonas.
According to Jonas, obtaining finance is one of the major challenges SMEs face. "My experience, as the owner of an SME, is that most of us suffer silently because we are scared to fail. We do not want to approach the banks and we also do not have our documents in order," said Jonas.
"Jonas had already invested her own money in the business and showed that she had financial discipline," said Mbo Luvindao, branch manager: Bank Windhoek ESME.
The ESME branch caters specifically for entrepreneurs that can contribute positively to the country's economy. Entrepreneurs are provided with access to Bank Windhoek ESME branch, which offers a comprehensive range of products tailored to individual business needs.
"Jonas' experience in the travel and tourism industry spans 18 years and Bank Windhoek assisted her business with capacity development through financing the business' growth," said Luvindao.
"I am sincerely grateful to Bank Windhoek's ESME branch. The bank gave me a chance to grow my business. Bank Windhoek is not just a bank, it's my Namibian business partner," said Jonas.
"My advice to entrepreneurs is that they should stand up and approach financial institutions," she said. Jonas added that business people should know that it is only through good financial discipline and ethics that a business can succeed.