Evolving in Ever-changing Times

As with any enterprise, the last few years have compelled ‘Good for Namibia’ (i.e., me, essentially) to respond to various severe constraints and meet new challenges. I’ve just finished updating the ‘Home’ page of this blog because many of the objectives I over-optimistically set out in 2019 have fallen away, while other goals have – perforce – taken their place.

Managing the unpredictable, organic development of any endeavour can be frustrating and financially burdensome; a failure to be flexible has evidently taken its toll on many businesses across the globe recently, both large and small. Certainly, I have reluctantly come to understand that it’s no good depending on a great many promises and proposals from numerous would-be supporters, however well-intentioned. The time and effort spent in chasing these up when they generally come to nought can be deeply dispiriting and I have learned not to take seriously any suggestion that starts with ”why don’t you just?” because such thinking out loud rarely produces concrete results! On the other hand, for every twenty propositions that didn’t bear fruit, there was inevitably one that led to a positive outcome. The hustle is very, very real …

It was definitely overambitious back in mid-2019 to hope that I could offer a little assistance in my spare time launching a range of pilot upcycling projects then hand them off to disadvantaged Namibians to manage independently. And aiming at marketing and selling products via the Internet proved to be premature: for whatever reasons, the country is not yet ready to embrace e-commerce (although baby steps are being taken by young entrepreneurs especially, not a week goes by that another online ordering platform doesn’t crash in flames alas).

The soap-making project I hoped to initiate fell by the wayside once hotels – which were to supply discarded bars of soap to be recycled – were shuttered in 2020 and a number of other ideas similarly failed to gain traction once people became exhausted from battling all the consequences of the pandemic. There will come a time in the not-too-distant future, I hope, when some of these can be revisited.

In terms of other sales platforms, we have gone from famine to feast here. Pop up stores (in half-deserted malls) and weekend markets are proliferating to such an extent that customers simply cannot decide where to spend their money. For this reason, the ‘Sew Good’ group (the only project I have yet to really get off the ground yet in reality) no longer has a stall at a regular market; the returns were dwindling and it was more effective to focus on retail outlets that ordered specific items to place on their shelves. We are therefore grateful to the Red Shelf (https://theredshelf.com/) thrift and consignment stores in Windhoek and Swakopmund; the Made in Namibia Collection (https://www.facebook.com/MadeinNamibiaCollection/), also in Swakopmund; and the Renew sustainability project and store in Malmesbury, Wiltshire (https://renewmalmesbury.com/), all of which agreed to showcase and promote our wonderful goods so that we could reach a much larger customer base. Getting our bags, table runners, aprons and other items made from upcycled, discarded fabric out to shops outside Windhoek has been extremely tricky though; to date we have to rely on the goodwill of people prepared to deliver our consignments for us since the cost of courier services is prohibitive – especially for the UK destination.

Therefore at the start of 2023, I can have no idea where the changing retail landscape in Namibia and elsewhere will situate ‘Sew Good’. We would love to get our goods into more stores internationally but the colossal expense plus all the bureaucratic hoops we have to jump thorough, even as a micro-scale and informal producer, are really too much of a barrier to expansion. It’s also time to get some more pilot projects launched now that I have a better notion of the sort of products that locals and tourists are willing to spend their money on, but this necessitates the getting another individual on board, a creative volunteer with energy and time to spare. The search goes on!