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 Find markets outside your comfort zone, says medical pioneer

 

 Sometimes entrepreneurs have to move far outside their comfort zone before they find a market that propel them to success. In Kagiso Moloi’s case, he had to move to a different country before he could build a thriving dental practice.

On paper, Dr Moloi had everything required to build a successful business when he graduated from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1999.

Not only did he have a degree in dentistry, but he also had a proven entrepreneurial drive. A few years before his dental studies he had started his own taxi and salon business in his hometown of Duduza in Gauteng, a province of South Africa. This was after he qualified as a medical technician, but could not find a job because of a shortage of laboratories in South Africa. His entrepreneurial ventures tided him over until he managed to get into the dentistry school at UWC.

The young Dr Moloi was also fortunate enough to have been financed in full by a specialist medical financier to set up his first practice, including equipment and a vehicle. Furthermore, he had an earnest desire to help his community in Duduza by setting up his practice there.

So, with qualifications, finance, entrepreneurial drive and a passion to help his community, success looked virtually guaranteed, but it was just too hard, says Dr Moloi. There were two other established dental practices in Duduza, and the medical aid system through which most patients could afford private dental care took as long as sixty days to pay after submitting a claim.

Soon Dr Moloi found himself unable to pay the instalments on his business loan, and he started investigating the possibility of working in the UK for a while so that he could settle his debts.

Then he got a call from a friend who had set up a dental practice in Oshakati in the north of Namibia, asking him to join him. Fortunately, the friend was able to advance money so that Dr Moloi could repay the loan.

The move put Dr Moloi on a somewhat more conventional dental career trajectory of joining someone else’s practice before starting his own. It also placed him in a market full of opportunities. It was 2002, and Namibia, which did not have its own dental school at that stage, welcomed dentists from South Africa.

Working for his friend’s practice helped Dr Moloi to establish himself in the new market, and soon he joined a new private hospital in Windhoek as the resident dentist. This was followed by a partnership with two other dentists which lasted until 2014.

By this time Dr Moloi was ready to start his own, stand-alone practice. He identified a building and went looking for finance, but local finance institutions turned him down because was not officially a Namibian citizen.

A friend introduced him to Business Partners International Namibia, which agreed to finance the purchase of the building, as well as its conversion to a dental facility, for 6,9 million Namibian dollars. The five-year loan is almost paid off, leaving Dr Moloi as the owner of prime property in the rapidly developing Windhoek West.

Dr Moloi says what he likes about Business Partners International is that they care not only about their loans that they give to entrepreneurs, but about the entrepreneurs themselves. “They really engage you to check how you and your business are doing,” he says.

He was able to make use of Business Partners International's technical assistance fund to attend a recent conference on implantology. The technical assistance fund gives interest-free loans to Business Partners International clients who want to develop their technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Business Partners International has also been flexible and understanding whenever he has struggled to make a payment because of cash-flow problems, he says. The remaining difficult aspect of his business is the delay between serving the patient and the payment from the medical aid schemes.

Dr Moloi says the market in Windhoek has become highly competitive, especially since Namibia now boasts its own school of dentistry, which he serves as an advisor. But what has helped his business enormously is the public profile that he has managed to build up in Namibia. Through his love of jazz, he has managed to make a name for himself as the presenter of a jazz programme, first at a local radio station and later on DSTV Audio Bouquet 868.

He has also become a fixture on Good Morning Namibia, a national television programme, on which he educates the public on dental and general health. The result is that people come from far and wide to his practice to see him.

The limitation of this strength is that his potential clients want to see him personally. As a result, Dr Moloi’s attempts to establish satellite practices outside of Windhoek - one as far as Angola - has not worked. In the immediate future therefore, he will be focusing on expanding this thriving Windhoek practice.

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