The self-made glass expert

The rags to riches story may sound like a cliché but when it comes to the birth of Glazing Botswana, one cannot help but use it, after-all this is a company that was born out of sweat, determination and the desire to succeed.

It was all hard work for Cuzen Meshotlo, the owner of the country’s largest glass company, who did not have the luxury of parental guidance as he lost his parents at an early age. He came from nothing to being a leader in the industry.

Unlike most popular businesses scattered around the city that were funded by government capital and financed on debt, Glazing Botswana was born from funds derived from hard work.

Meshotlo started his company from scratch in the early 90s after getting the money from selling sweets in the streets. He also got some of the start-up capital from the combi business he went into after leaving his employment.

“Glazing Botswana started running in 1989, after I worked for Builders Merchants Botswana (BMB), where there was a section dealing with glasses. I felt that the glass section was neglected,” Meshotlo says of how he started becoming interested in the glass business.

The Moshupa-born Meshotlo worked for BMB from 1980 to 1982 and then left to work for Freshair Company - which no longer exists today - for one year and then went into the combi industry.

He says that he developed a passion for business in the early years of his boyhood as he sold sweets at the station and in the streets of Gaborone.

He knew he wanted to be a businessman as he was full of business ideas. He says that he did not have parents to nurture him when he was growing up, which motivated him to work harder.

He does not have the impressive academic backgrounds of graduates who loiter the streets looking for jobs, but he did manage to complete the famous, Capital Continuation Classes (CCC) schools located at Bontleng.

“I started the company from scratch with another Motswana, who has since left. The only money we had was the money I had made from the combi business. The business was started by the two of us as my partner had a lot of skill in the glass business,” Meshotlo says.

He says that the business is lucrative but very competitive, as new entrants come to the market. The company has to re-work its strategy to beat its peers.

He says that when he started out, he wanted to fight the monopoly of other established companies that include PG.

“PG was specialising in glass and they had a lot of business. I realised there was need for a competitor”.

He says he started small in Tshweneng, until he found a piece of land where he is now situated, next to the bus terminal. He spent a lot of money on developing the land.

“I came to the present location in 1991 from Tshweneng. That’s when I employed more people,” he says confidently. The company’s staff compliment is currently over 68, which includes people employed by Meshotlo in some of the sister companies like Auto Screen (13), Tyre Fix (21), which is funded by the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and the mother company, Glazing Botswana, which employs about 34 people. He gives credit to his dedicated staff, which he trains. He always tells them that holding a glass is not difficult.

“I teach my staff locally but sometimes I call in experts from South Africa to come and train them,” Meshotlo says. He revealed that he did not study glass making, but learnt the skills from the experts he was working with.

He has however, travelled to Germany and Italy to see glass shows and learnt how the glass is cut and worked on. Meshotlo admits that the local glass industry is competitive but says he will soldier on to have a share of the market cake.

His clients in the market range from government, construction companies and individuals and takes care of both domestic and industrial requirements. “It is very tough in the market, but we are surviving.

You need to be organised in terms of marketing,” he says and adds that some of his clients come from as far away as South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Currently, the company’s operations are located in Gaborone, but will soon broaden its horizons to tap the market in the northern parts of the country, where it is expected that new job opportunities will come up.

He says that he expects his business to grow in the future, but could have grown further had it not been for a tax war he had with government, where he ended up paying them millions of Pula. “The business will grow, but it could have grown if I had not fought with government over tax. However, the issue was resolved,” Meshotlo says and adds that his business is now stable and he remains focused.

He also advised prospective business people to be patient when starting up a business as the rewards come in the long term.

“When you start a business, you need to think and should know what you want to achieve and you also need to be determined”.

He explained that Batswana want to reap the fruits of their labour over a short period of time.

“Batswana must treat business as a long term investment and research about the business before making a move,” he says. He says that he has secured a plot in Palapye and has another one in Francistown, where he intends setting up his businesses.

Although the fruits of his labour have made him one of the richest men in the country, he still calls himself a bachelor though he has fathered some children.

600450 The self-made glass expert
Date: 28 June 2004

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