In a day and age where the average phone of a six year-old is a hi-tech smart-phone with 24/7 internet access, it can be surprising when you meet people who don’t have an email address in a capital city, not because they cannot afford the phones, but because they don’t want them.
Meet entrepreneur and owner of the Eros Coffee Shop in Windhoek, Rosmarie Schlechter!
After losing everything in Mariental to a horrible flood eight years ago where she resided then, she thought life as she knew it was over. She, in the process, lost her small but thriving coffee shop, her husband lost his job and life soon took a turn for the worst.
Time went by with Rosmarie’s family living as though life itself was an entire oblivion until she landed a job at the local Wimpy restaurant where she worked for 15 months as a manager. That was the beginning of greater things to come.
One day, during a tight selection, Rosmarie’s then boss asked her to pack up. She was going for an all-expenses Wimpy course in Johannesburg, South Africa!
“I could not believe it. It was humbling, especially after what my family and I had been through. I don’t want to blow my own horn, but I can tell you this; I’m made of steel!
“That course jumpstarted me in the right direction. It opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that wallowing in my loss couldn’t accord me. It gave the ‘compass’ in life as I know it now.”
But how did she land in the now, I asked, as she waved and said hello to patrons who came and went with the brightest and most genuine of smiles?
“An old friend walked into Wimpy while I was on duty one day and asked if ever I would go solo again, as regards owning a coffee shop, and then told me about a shop on sale in Windhoek,” she narrated, referring to her current coffee shop where we conducted this interview, after a Saturday kids/mommy date with my girls.
“I woke up the following morning thinking, ‘this is it! I have to take the leap. Who knows!’ It was a Sunday morning. I said the most emotional prayer I had ever said. I literally had a serious mono-a-mono with my Heavenly Father. Then I picked up the telephone and called the owner of the shop on sale. My old friend had given me the number the day before. As soon as I heard ‘hello’ on the other end of the line, I froze. No sound came out of my mouth after three attempts. I’ve never been so nervous in my life.
“I think the nervousness was mostly because I didn’t think of myself worthy enough to own a restaurant in the capital. I mean, really, who did I think I was; Martha Stewart? But then I instantly remembered having laid this phone call and the entire situation at the feet of my Heavenly Father and at that moment, I responded; ‘Hello’, to the voice on the other side of the line.
“Believe it or not – and long story short – my son was in South Africa playing rugby at the time, but that evening, he called me to say he was coming home. I was in Mariental, of course. So I packed up to come to Windhoek to spend some time with my son, meet the shop owner and own a damn coffee shop! Just like that. There was nothing to think about, especially because I didn’t have the money to buy a shop.
“The shop owner and I would meet that week. I narrated my recent life occurrences to him and he simply said; ‘I sympathize with all that you’ve gone through but how do you intend to pay me off?’
“I had done my homework and I knew the man had trouble keeping the shop running due to his work commitments in Europe, so I told him, after a very long pause as I fought back my tears, that I would pay him on a daily basis for four and a half years!”
I was dumbfounded with this woman’s guts. I mean, the average person does not own a business in their lifetime because they’re either afraid of the future incurred expenses of owning a business or the loans. But not Rosmarie. She would pay her debtor EVERY DAY for four and a half years! Miraculously smart idea to take to the bank?
“This isn’t my shop. It’s my Heavenly Father’s!” she said as she fought back tears and reached for a Kleenex to blow her nose.
Given the size of the shop, I wondered how she managed to satisfy her throng of patrons.
“I have a very small kitchen here and I assure you, it’s by God’s grace that I manage to satisfy my customers each day. I’m a woman of my word and hate to disappoint, so I pray, and deliver,” she enthused, adding: “A woman once asked to have an elephant on her kid’s birthday cake and I looked at her and wondered, ‘how the heck does she expect this to turn out?’, but because I couldn’t disappoint a fellow mother, I delivered – after so, so many attempts!”
“I’ve had a dedicated staff for three years. Never had to fire anyone. I take care of them and they take care of me by helping me be the best version of me, as regards my business. They’re my family and I treat them as I would my own children. None of them can fake sickness to skip work as would a kid to skip school, you know. If any of them says they’re sick, I personally take them to the doctor and ensure they’re in perfect shape before returning to work. That way, they know I’ve got their back as they do mine.
Beyond all this, Rosmarie is a proud mother of three bundles of joy and two beautiful, beautiful grand-kids. She’s a gardener at heart who tends to her dogs as though they were humans and loves sitting around at home doing nothing on Sundays.
“I read lots of books too – mostly self-help, spiritual kind. I love cycling – yeah, at my age, I know,” she giggles before adding, “I love people, messy as they come. Being the respectful person that I am, I have made it my mission in life to let it be my legacy to my children – show respect to others, whoever they may be because we’re all equal before our Creator. Out of respect, is love born. Respect is the only way we’re able to accommodate one another on this earth.
“I respect my kids and even when they were just babies, I’d spank them if I had to and then later go into their rooms to speak to them about their behavior. I’m strict, though – typical disciplinarian – and my kids know/knew not to ‘play’ when uncalled for. They’ve always seen how their father and I treat each other with love and respect and I hope they live up to it.”
How did she meet her husband, I asked?
Fondly she said: “It’s not your usual romantic tale but we adore it nonetheless; we were neighbours growing up and started dating while still in school. Got married when the time was right, had two daughters and a son and have been together for 36 years!
“We’ve seen enough in our lifetime together and that’s why if, for instance, our child came home to announce that they’re gay, I personally would do nothing besides pray that God may help me reconcile my child’s ways as they are and keep loving him as I always have.
“I hope you realize how much I mention God and family in my sentences but it’s because I believe that without God and family, there’s no success in work. We’re merely empty vessels searching the world without the two.”
I stopped taking notes and listened to Rosmarie. The more I listened to her, it became clearer to me why her struggle spoke to me. It was because her pain was no different from mine. I realized that as she told her story, one breathe after another, I saw so many faces of women from different backgrounds, ages and races all over the world. Her struggle and journey haven’t been void. No. They mean something. To me, they mean triumph in the face of adversity. They mean hope. They mean prayer at work. They mean faith in practice. They mean God lives.
“By the way, I don’t have an e-mail address or laptop or any of that. I’m old-school. Just a phone to call and SMS. I have a Facebook account, though.” (Laughs).
I was sold. What’s your story?