We all have the same 24 hours, yet it sometimes feels like some people have more hours in their day. Sometimes we wish we could be a fly on their wall to gain some insight on how they do it all. This month, we look into what the average day is like for Spotless dishwashing liquid owner, Maemu Thiofhi Lambani.
5:30 – I get up and before I even brush my teeth, I take out my journal and write in it to invite God into my day. I plan my day – if I have tasks from the previous day that I haven’t completed, I carry them over to the new day. I sort my tasks out and make sure that I’ve completed everything from the previous day so that I know what to do when I get to the office.
06:15 – I take a bath and I leave for work.
07:30 – I get to the office and what my day looks like from then depends on what is happening, because on some days I could get there and we are busy producing – which means we’re mixing and we’re doing physical things like bottling, labelling, barcoding and so on.
10:00 – I complete tasks in the factory that revolve around the manufacturing process. So, the stock counting of the raw materials; the stock to be sold; reconciling how many packs are left at the warehouse; how much money has been banked – these are things that require my physical energy. I usually go into the office dressed in my trackpants or just dressed casually to do all of that.
13:00 – I load the car and so I can head out and sell in the villages. This would mean that I’m spending the whole day out, as I go store-to-store in the village we’re in to introduce Spotless to the business owner or to the shopkeeper and we conduct sales pitches for them.
14:00 – Some days I’ll just be in the office and that means that I’m doing marketing work such as sending out invoices, interacting with people who are asking questions on our social media pages and responding to inboxes. So, my day really varies. There isn’t a day that is like any other. It depends on what exactly is happening. I don’t even usually take an hour for lunch because I eat while I work.
17:30 – I knock off because we don’t own the factory and the business from which we’re renting closes at that time.
18:00 – I get home, make my meals, take a bath and get back to my laptop and finish work. I usually do the marketing work after hours because that is the only time that I don’t have to be pitching to anyone. So, I’d usually be creating content for social media, responding to the messages on our WhatsApp and responding to messages on our Facebook.
Maemu Thiofhi Lambani’s Trivia
What sparked the idea to create your own cleaning products and what are they?
My first business was a digital marketing agency and when things weren’t working out around 2018, there was a huge shift in the digital industry where corporates were opting to hire permanent employees to do the work internally rather than outsourcing it to agencies. So, we lost quite a bit of business during that period.
My mom advised that I start distributing cleaning products and that’s when I thought I could actually start my own brand because I believe we need to be a generation of creators and not only consumers of what already exists in the market.
So right now, we’re only manufacturing dishwashing liquid. We’re hoping to get into other products; we’ve got formulas for other products such as fabric softeners, laundry detergents and household bleach. Dishwashing liquid has been our first step as it’s been the easiest to manufacture and introduce into the market.
What are the practical steps that one can take towards getting their product(s) into the retail market?
We are not in big retailers such as Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, Shoprite and Boxer yet, because most retail stores take up your products on consignment deals. That means they take your stock and only give you money, maybe after three months, for only the products that they’ve sold. That doesn’t work for us because we need all the business that we can get as a small business, for operations. We don’t have large sums of money sitting in the bank— we’re making use of all the funds that we get from paying customers.
We are, though, available in the more independent supermarkets where we walk in and tell them about our products and they’ll say, “let’s try it out”. In Joburg we are at Farm to Kitchen, other than that, at the moment we are more focused on spaza shops and supermarkets in the rural areas and local kasis.
So what usually happens is we bring the product and ask to speak to the buyer or the person responsible for the day-to-day running of the business and we tell them about what we’re selling as well as the price. They usually try to negotiate to lower the price because that’s business and because they also have to mark up the product and sell it at a price where they’ll also be able to make a profit.
Walk us through your production process from end-to-end.
The first step is, I write the formula which depends on how big the quantity is. We mix in our 1,000 litres tank mixer, which means that we have to write all the quantities from the formula in relation to the volume that we’re going to be producing on the day. When the water increases and the space increases, every other quantity has to increase according to the formula.
Then we measure the various raw materials and pour them into different buckets; we them mix them up; let it set; pour it into bottles and we label them; and then we put on the expiration dates.
What is your greatest milestone thus far?
Just being available in the market and having people buy your product – I love it. Creating relationships through the product and actually trusting it and knowing that customers are going to be using it for a very long time.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Creating the right relationships in business that will help grow the business and me as the entrepreneur. Also making the right decisions and staying on my feet in terms of not doing things that are going to question my integrity as a person outside of the business. I think it’s just how the business itself can get into your head and you forget yourself and you lose yourself in the process of trying to grow your business… Whatever happens in the business should never ruin my personal relationships with the people I love.
If any, what other business ventures do you have?
My first business is a digital marketing agency and it’s called Fearless Trends. It offers small enterprises digital services so that they can market themselves at affordable prices. When I got into Spotless, I ran both businesses simultaneously for about a year but now I’m not running the agency anymore because I feel like Spotless is quite big — it’s bigger than me. I’m going to have to focus wholly on it without splitting myself between two businesses, which are both start-ups, as it’s going to be taxing for me.
What would you like to share that you don’t often get asked about?
I have had problems with my mental health even before I got into business, but my anxiety got worse after I got into business. I think there should be a lot of light shone on entrepreneurs who are doing really well because there are a lot of underlying mental illnesses that they have to live with. And being in the entrepreneurship space also makes it very difficult to focus on mental health because we focus on trying to build businesses and build our brands.