When Njabulo Makhathini and Njabulo Mtshali set out to start a business making mobile charging covers, they knew they faced fierce competition from established distributors with big names and big bucks backing them.
That however didn’t deter these two young entrepreneurs who decided to wing it, and create what they believe is South Africa’s first 100% black-owned company of its kind.
Booster Energy chargers are designed for Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets. It also produces power banks that work with virtually any smartphone. Each cover and power bank can charge a mobile once before it needs to be powered up as well.
Though the JoziHub-based startup was formally established last year, Makhathini and Mtshali have been working for the last two years to research their market, competitors, product specifications and find and link up with a manufacturer who could make the covers and powerbanks.
“We were inspired to start Booster Energy because we knew there had to be an easier solution to help people get more from their smartphones, especially with load shedding upon us right now,” Makhathini explains. “Our passion for technology was also something that gave us the motivation we needed to go ahead with it. We are just geeks at heart.”
Like many tech product startups getting a footing in the sector, Booster Energy has all of its merchandise made in China because of the availability of material and cheaper manufacturing costs. They aren’t simply rebadged OEM products, though.
“We do the designs ourselves and give it to the manufacturer,” says Makhathini.
As convenient as this is for the startup, it’s a temporary solution and Makhathini and Mtshali have plans to have everything made locally, starting at the end of 2016 with the help of the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller.
“Red tape in South Africa is one the biggest challenges we have had to learn from the hard way,” Makhathini says. “SARS and customs procedures and protocols are our biggest battle. We once had our goods frozen for about two weeks and ended up having to travel to the airport every day to sort the issue out. Such things can really discourage small businesses but we’ve learned from our experience.”
Booster Energy received a major confidence boost last year during one of Sir Richard Branson’s visits to the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Braamfontein. “We showed him some of our products and he ended up buying one for himself.”
Booster Energy’s long-term vision is to spread beyond the borders of South Africa and reach the rest of Africa, and the team is currently in talks with distributors from Angola and Kenya who have shown great interest in their products.
“Our immediate focus is launching Booster Traveller, which is sort of a powerbank designed to charge laptops. We already have orders from film producers and people who work in offices. These people usually send long hours on their laptop and it would be very handy to have a charger that doesn’t require electricity, especially when there aren’t plugs or ports nearby,” Makhathini explains.
Booster Energy products are available from Takealot and the startup’s website starting from R450. The startup is also in the process of signing up resellers to help widen their reach and put some money in the pockets of young unemployed people across the country.
“If anyone in any part of South Africa wants to be a reseller, they are welcome to hit us up,” Makhathini adds as he says this is their way of creating a new wave of young entrepreneurs across the country.
If that’s you, Makhathini and Mtshali can be reached via the contact form on the Booster Energy website.