Most Malawians underrate their ability when it comes to venturing into challenging businesses. Instead they prefer doing small scale businesses. In Mulanje, Arthur Ken Chilewe started his business humbly but what he has achieved in few years will certainly change mindsets of those who believe they cannot run big businesses. Nyasa Times reporter Jeromy Kadewere talks to Arthur Ken Chilewe, Managing Director of Hapuwani Lodge and Ken Steel Engineering.
Who is Arthur Ken Chilewe?
I am the managing director of Hapuwani Lodge and Ken Steel Engineering plus a farmer. I am also an engineer by profession.
What is your educational background?
I did my primary education at Ulongwe Model School before being selected to Blantyre Secondary School where l was in same classroom with Football Association of Malawi President Walter Nyamilandu. After my secondary school education l did engineering.
What next after completing your education?
I was employed by Malawi Tea Factory as a workshop manager before shifting to Chitakale Tea Estate where I was estate engineer. After working for some years l said enough was enough why can’t l venture into business?
When was that and what kind of business?
It was in 2004 when l thought of establishing Ken Steel Engineering which is still running up to date. We make rocket stoves and many fabrications. It was profits from Ken Steel Engineering that l used to construct Hapuwani Lodge.
Does it mean you built Hapuwani from money realized from rocket stoves?
Oh yes! I used my own money with some loans from banks. When it comes to rocket stoves, we have markets outside the country and one of the notable organizations which is our big supplier is World Food Programme which buys these stoves and distributes them in primary schools for feeding programmes.
How much did it cost you to build such a magnificent place?
I started building this lodge in 2008 and I spent K380 million. But l remember when l was doing ground breaking many people were doubting me and said all sorts of things like “akufuna awoneke ngati ndani kodi awa tiwona komwe ziwafikitse”. However, l soldiered on because l had an ambition.
Most of the materials which l used to build Hapuwani were bought in China. Now, I can proudly stand on top of any mountain that through Hapuwani l have employed 49 Malawians.
Is Hapuwani ready to host people?
Definitely yes! Construction is now through and we have already started receiving tourists who spend their nights here. Different organizations have also started booking for their meetings, for instance, recently we had Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and the Malawi Regulatory Authority (MRA).
What is the logic behind building such a magnificent lodge in Mulanje, why not Blantyre or Lilongwe?
Mulanje is a tourists’ destination because of the mountain, and l thought by building such a place here tourists will have a comfortable place to spend their night at. Apart from hosting tourists, different organizations were finding it difficult to secure nice places for their meetings and workshops in Mulanje. Now that is history because we have Hapuwani owned by their fellow Malawian.
What are your hobbies?
Playing golf, and as you can see Mulanje Golf Club is a stone-throw away from here. After work l just go there to play golf or else seat on the veranda to admire the scenes of our mountain in front while behind we have a tea plantation field.
You also said you are a farmer, can you tell me more?
I am a smallholder farmer who owns a chunk of land on which l grow tea. I also have kraals of cattle.
By the way, what is the meaning of Hapuwani?
Stop, rest and enjoy.
Let me leave out stop, you have a rest and enjoy?
Ha! Ha! Ha! Thanks a lot Jeromy.
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