Mampe Chwaedi has been trading as a general dealer for 35 years. And even in moments when a closing shop has seemed to be her only option, she has refused to throw in the towel. She now stands tall and proud because of her humility, patience, tolerance and friendly smile. Chwaedi opened Iketsetseng General Dealer in the small farming town of Koffiefontein in the Free State in 1987. At the time, she could not find a job and had to take care of her children as a single mother.
She started by selling fruit and vegetables in her yard. She recalls how many times she lost her trading tent due to poor weather conditions, theft and other misfortunes. “When I started out, it was quite a challenge because I didn’t have much to start with,” she told Vutivi News. “I would buy stock and would pitch my tent outside of my home and trade.”
As her business picked up slowly, she encountered numerous challenges. “People around me saw how I was able to feed my family and make a living for myself and they would challenge me and open businesses right around me,” Chwaedi said. “They were of the impression that it was very easy, so I watched many of them start their businesses. “However, their businesses wouldn’t last because of their approach and because of their attitude towards their customers.”
As the years went by, Chwaedi started supplying more goods. She travelled as far as the Northern Cape and the North West to source quality fruit, vegetables, meat and fabric for the clothing that she makes. Her resilience to keep her business going has put her children through school and university. She has also built her own home and bought a van, which she now uses to travel to different parts of the country to stock her shop.
Today she operates her business central Koffiefontein after securing a property. Chwaedi considers herself a versatile trader and looking back, she realises how easily she could have closed her business. “When Covid-19 hit and many people lost their jobs, our businesses suffered greatly and so did mine,” she said. “Many of my fellow traders had to shut their spaza shops and general dealers, and with the influx of shops operated by foreign nationals, it became even more difficult to trade.
“However, it is my humility and the fact that I greatly respect my customers that I was able to keep trading and operating after all these years.” Chwaedi told Vutivi News that she would continue trading until the end of her days and planned on extending her shop into a mini supermarket.