Botswana: Covid-19 Boosts Local Bicycle Shop

Gaborone — On-the-job training has the potential to impart the much-needed knowledge to establish a well-paying business.

Bicycle technician Mr Thapelo Motlhankanyane has served his apprenticeship in a number of companies for over 15 years servicing and maintaining bicycles for professional and casual cyclists across the country.

Speaking in an interview with BOPA, Mr Motlhankanyane said his passion and love for bicycles kept him afloat and got him traveling great distances to the most unpredictable of places that today scripts his career.

Achieving low grades in junior certificate examinations in 2003 did not kills his hopes of earning a decent living and securing a better tomorrow.

In his words, Mr Motlhankanyane, who is a former pupil of Emang Community Junior Secondary School in Kanye, said from a tender age his dream was to own a bicycle, but financial constraints made the dream almost impossible to achieve that hence the decision to consider assembling his own from abundant bicycle wreckage.

He said when his parents ultimately bought him one, it marked the beginning of his career as he got to learn all details that supports a bicycle to function.

Mr Motlhankanyane reiterated that even if he was to start an enterprise then, he felt he needed more time towards capacity-building endeavours and to fully embrace the means and ends towards economic empowerment.

He took an offer from a close cousin to work for a bicycle sales and repair shop in Gaborone, where he pursued training which matched his ambitions.

His practice as a technician began from 2005 - 2009 where he served under Gaborone garage, in 2010-2011 he worked for the Bike Shop, and last but not least he worked for the Ultimate Cycle-Base from 2011 to January 2021.

He explained that quitting at the Ultimate Cycle Base in January 2021 to set up his venture was propelled by COVID-19.

"When lockdowns and travel bans are imposed, often employers dictate terms of payments which usually are lower than expected hence my quest to set my business to cater for future uncertainties, ," he said.

In particular, he said COVID-19 having closed borders proved to be beneficial for his newly established business as he now was able to position himself well in the market and attract customers that often serviced their bicycles in South Africa.

Interestingly, Mr Motlhankanyane said upon setting up Muller's Mobile Bicycle Mechanic he got over 30 clients under his wing and was receiving more new clients by the day.

He expressed that it only worked best for him as a budding entrepreneur to dip a toe in the water before jumping all in with a brick-and-mortar shop (and all the costs and commitments that type of business comes with).

Mr Motlhankanyane highlighted that being mobile allowed him to try different locations on different days and pack up and go to special events where there were audiences to comprehend his service offerings.

He cited local races affected stood as a potential market for his line of business once the pandemic situation stabilised.

"Capital Cycle Challenge, Yarona Cycle Challenge, BPC cycle Challenge, Mascom Challenge, Orapa Classic, and Wharic stands amongst targeted races that would support my business when COVID-19 is fully under control," he said.

He said more cyclists who used to service their expensive bicycles worth over P150 000 outside Botswana now feel content to services them at Muller's Mobile Bicycle Mechanic, something that had brought much-needed trust.

He noted that some clients whom he used to service their bicycle at his previous employment had now followed him for his unique and satisfactory mechanical aptitude.

Mr Motlhankanyane underscored that to expand his line of business he hoped to set a wing within his venture where he would provide training, mentoring, and consultancy to individuals and cyclists looking to understand everything they need to fix their bike or set a similar business.

Source : BOPA

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