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Hard work pays off for Maseru street vendor



MASERU – SELINA Ramalohlanye turned from being a qualified accounts clerk with a local firm to a street vendor and life has never been better.
More than a decade later, she has received an award for being the best in her field. Street vending is a job looked down upon by many people but for Ramalohlanye, it has opened her to a world of comfort.
As a street vendor, the only recognition Selina Ramalohlanye has become used to is being identified as inferior.

It therefore was a special moment last week when the 50-year-old was recognised an important player in the country’s economy after winning an award in a sector often ridiculed by many.
Ramalohlanye, who has been a street vendor for 14 years, took the best female award in the Finite Awards in the street vending industry.
The awards ceremony was held in Maseru last Saturday as the Women Month wrapped up.

Ramalohlanye says she started her business in 2005 as a part-time job while she was still working at a local company as an accounts clerk.
She says she studied Book-keeping at Masianokeng Commercial in 1986 to 1987.
The enthusiastic businesswoman hawks bread, fish, pork trotters, boiled maize and chicken feet and heads.
Ramalohlanye says she started the business after giving birth to her child in 2005 and at that time she was selling some fat cakes and fish during her spare time.

She says she was given some hours to look after her baby but she used part of that time to fish around for opportunities.
She says back in 2010, she resigned from the company because the salary she earned could not sustain her family.
At that time, her child had already enrolled for crèche.
“The money I generated through my part time business was even better than my salary,” she says.

“So I told myself that I could generate more if I could dedicate all my time to my new business.”
Ramalohlanye says she informed her boss of her plan to leave the company to start her own business because she was not earning enough.
She says her business became successful and paying bills was no longer a problem.

“I managed to pay household expenses and school fees,” she says.
Before starting the business, she says she could not afford to buy some luxurious house items such as furniture since she was only earning M1 200 per month. All that changed when she took to street vending.
“I managed to buy some house furniture such as sofas and other luxurious items,” she says.

Ramalohlanye says business used to thrive but has become tough due to increased competition as more people take to street vending.
She says her customers are also struggling to survive because there is no money.
In light of the intense competition, she says she resolved to work in the afternoons when her competitors are tired.
She says she has enjoyed a fortune tenfold after devising and implementing this strategy.

But Ramalohlanye says she has lost some of her clients who used to buy their lunch from her.
She says this is the third year that her business is struggling to survive due to a tough operating environment.
Now she has cut the quantity of food parcels she used to prepare for sale.
“When the business was doing well, I used to cook five packages of heads and feet, two 21 litres sized-pots which make 12 maqebekoane,” Ramalohlanye says.

Nowadays she is only preparing two packages of heads and feet and one pot of bread to avoid incurring losses.
She says she used to make up to M200 profit daily. These days, she at times goes home with as little as M30 profit.
Ramalohlanye says most customers are still loyal to her business, even the ones she no longer delivers food to.

To sustain her business, she says she is now focusing on people who are self-employed who can buy food at any time of the day.
Fluctuating food prices are putting a strain on her business though.
“When the prices of food rise, it is not easy to increase our prices immediately because this price fluctuation will hamper our businesses badly,” she says.

Ramalohlanye says she still has huge dreams about her business because “these problems we are facing now do not last forever”.
She says she lives in a rented room but she wants to build her own house.
“I also want to offer jobs to other people who will be assisting me,” she says.
A stickler for quality, she enjoys the unwavering support of her clients.
“My customers like my food because I do not compromise on quality and neatness even if I have to use expensive, good looking bowls,” Ramalohlanye says.

For her, the customer is king.
“Being humble and respectful to customers has been the secret for my success, Ramalohlanye says.
Winning the award has boosted her confidence as a street vendor and she has no intention of quitting.
To those struggling to make it as street vendors, Ramalohlanye has simple advice.
“If you start by loving what you are doing its easier to convince other people to love your work too,” Ramalohlanye says.

Refiloe Mpobole


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