SUNDAY PROFILE with KAPALA CHISUNKA, Lusaka
GROWING up, her dream was to become a teacher or at least a journalist. But as they say, things happen in life. She changed course and ended up in banking before finally deciding that entrepreneurship was the way to go.
But it is not your idea of entrepreneurship that she picked on.
Chileshe Josephine Mpuku Ngomalala picked on the production of street guides.
She has no regrets despite the challenges she has faced.
“My interest in maps started when I joined my late husband in Manchester [United Kingdom] after leaving my job at Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZANACO). Maps are very important, so, slowly, I began to take an interest and I realised we don’t have such here. I think that’s where I got my business idea,” she says.
“I got married while I was at ZANACO. So, when my late husband went to Manchester, I left my job and followed him with our son. While in Manchester, I decided to pursue studies in computer programming.”
After three years in Manchester, the family moved back to Zambia but her idea of pursuing a business in production of street guides still stuck with her. She decided to take steps into the realisation of her idea by seeking guidance from the Ministry of Lands among others.
“While I was looking for a job, I was also following up on how I could set up my street guide business. Eventually, I got a job with Stanbic Bank but I only worked for six months because I had twins at the time, so I was difficult for me to balance,” Ms Ngomalala said.
After she left Stanbic Bank, she decided to start tailoring and designing instead of just staying home doing nothing. However, street guides and maps were still at the back of her mind and the idea at this stage was taking shape.
But later, she got another a job with Airtel in the customer care department. At that time, she was also working on her street guide which she had registered as a company as Streetwise Limited.
The maps and guides serve as critical information for investors, tourists, new residents and Zambians in general.
“There was a lot a work involved for it to take off because we needed advertisers as well,” Ms Ngomalala says. “Ordinary Zambians did not know much about it or its importance because they know they already know places here but outsiders appreciated it.”
The company was eventually launched and the first publication was Street Guide of Lusaka followed by Street Guide of Lusaka and Livingstone. She said the publication is always alert and taking into account new developments and updating the publication.
She said with permission from the surveyor general, the maps are updated and perfected periodically.
“From Street Guide of Lusaka and Livingstone, we did the Zambia Travel Map. We now make customised maps for companies. We have done specialised maps for many companies and organisations including Link Zambia 8000 map, Lusaka 400 map, the Road Development Agency map,” Ms Ngomalala says.
Others are educational maps for schools, wall maps for Zambia and towns, newly-created district maps for Ministry of Works and Supply, constituency map of Zambia, communication map for the Ministry of Transport and Communication and African Development Bank (AfDB) annual meetings delegate map and E link map for Zamtel.
Others are Inter-Parliamentary Conference delegate map for the National Assembly, communication map for the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) and the City of Lusaka which provides important information about Lusaka with a map insert.
Ms Ngomalala, who employees three people, says she does the drawing of the maps with a colleague. A mother of three, Ms Ngomalala said her company is home grown and not a franchise and thus there is need for stakeholders to support the initiative because it is one of its kind in Zambia.
Despite the successes the company has scored, Ms Ngomalala says there are some challenges with regards to piracy, especially last year. She says people have been pirating the street guides a lot although the trend has reduced.
“There are some challenges that we face along the way but we have also scored successes which by far outweigh the negatives,” she says. ‘Our plan now is to map out areas in Zambia and expand to other towns to include national parks as well. That is the reason we need partnerships.”
Her advice to women intending to venture into business is that it is not for the faint hearted. She says one needs to be disciplined because results are not instant.
“Any business has its own challenges and it takes a while sometimes for it to get off the ground,” she says. “Sometimes you cannot even draw a salary especially in the beginning and it’s difficult to find and keep clients but the secret is not to give up.”
Ms Ngomalala says her faith in God has helped her live through some of the challenges she faces.
Romans 8: 28 rings true for Ms Ngomalala, who was born in Solwezi in a family of nine and moved with her parents to Lusaka where she started her primary education at Lusaka Girls’ before proceeding to Kabulonga Girl Secondary School.
The verse reads: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.