By Thapy Mokono
Fortunate Chikamhi, owner of Zimbabwean based Penanel Trading P/L and Botswana based Roland dealer, Fortma Investment (Pty) Ltd, has been in the print and signage industry for 18 years. He talks about his business journey of going from a startup in his house to having branches in major cities.
After attaining a qualification in Marketing in 1999, Chikamhi joined a company that specialised in flag screen printing. In 2001, he ventured into signage and advertising as a Sales Executive, where he developed a passion and interest in the industry.
ESTABLISHING FORTMA INVESTMENT
‘While I was a salesperson I had a few friends with whom I often interacted, I was also in contact with marketing personnel in different sectors – these were the individuals who inspired me to be an entrepreneur,’ said Chikamhi. ‘In 2002, I decided to register my own company but could not take off due to lack of adequate funding. I was forced to stay on as an employee where I was promoted to Sales Manager, and then General Manager in 2004. However, the drive of being an entrepreneur was still within and it kept growing.’
In 2006, Chikamhi quit formal employment and started his own venture. He converted one of the rooms in his house into an office. When the business started expanding, the Chikamhi family had to move out of the house so the property could be turned into business premises.
‘To date we have expanded to three branches in Zimbabwe (two in Harare and one in Bulawayo). During Zimbabwe’s hyperinflationary period in 2007, I decided to have another operation in Botswana, which took off very well. We have two branches in Gaborone and Francistown, and we also have a branch in Lusaka, Zambia.’
‘The signage industry is diverse and has a lot of daily challenges that need your undivided attention. Time is critically important in this industry – one needs to be proactive instead of reactive. The technological changes in the industry are huge, and each year we look forward to new developments.’
CHIKAMHI NOTED THE FOLLOWING INDUSTRY CHANGES:
- Going from plotter cutting to digital printing.
- Lighting has improved drastically as the industry is moving from traditional fluorescent lighting to LED. Neon signs have also evolved to LED lighting, which makes signs look brighter and better with less maintenance costs.
- UV printing and flatbed printing has advanced.
- Soft signage has taken the lead recently as well.
- Laser cutting and engraving has evolved from CO2 lasers to fibre lasers, which has resulted in improved cutting speeds.
Chikamhi thinks that he got into this business so that he can explore his hobbies. ‘I love travelling, which made it easier for me during my early days where I had to meet customers’ urgent demands on stock. I would drive between three countries, collect stock from South Africa and deliver it in either Botswana or Zimbabwe without hesitation.’
KEYS TO SUCCESS
One of Fortma’s core values is passion. ‘Passion is very important in everything we do and it has made us successful,’ said Chikamhi. ‘Also of paramount importance is that we value our employees, whom we call our ‘greatest asset’, a happier employee will make your customers happy. We are also a customer-centric organisation which continuously seeks to listen to clients.’