Youth of The Month: Solomon Wanzie
Our youth of the month is a Mechanical Engineer who produces eco-friendly firewood and charcoal stoves of various sizes, universal food dehydrators and ovens of various sizes and models, dough rolling mills, complete garri processing line from peeling to frying, hammer mills, slicing machines, barbecue grills, just to name a few.
1. Could you briefly describe your educational background?
I attended primary school at St. Agnes Nursery and primary, secondary, and high school at PSS Nkwen where I obtained ordinary and advanced level certificates. I have a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from the CATUC (Catholic University), Bamenda.
2. Is your educational background linked to what you do today?
A lot of what I do today is centered mostly on engineering and entrepreneurship; we design, innovate, and manufacture equipment and machinery that help pertinent problems in society.
3. What inspired you to start creating Eco-friendly stoves and burners?
My dad (in blessed memory) studied Mechanical Engineering in Dortmund Germany for 18years. He had degrees in many areas including Appropriate Technology. This technology is that which focuses on enhancing human lives through satisfying human needs. My dad finally returned home and started trying his hands on many things. As a coincidence, I came home one holiday from school in form 4 and complained to him about the poor and unhealthy cooking methods and habits the cooks had to undergo during the preparation of our food.
There was too much smoke in the cooking environment, the cooks were suffering from running nostrils, swollen eyes, headaches, and extreme heat on an hourly base and obviously they were going to suffer like this for years to come. This is the same problem faced by millions of cooks and women all over Africa. He built the first-ever large cooking complex for PSS Nkwen in 2006 which is still functional till date and many others from there; PSS Mankon, Our Lady of Lourdes, CPC Bali, PSS Bafut, and many other schools and communities benefit from it till date. Growing up, I saw my dad putting smiles on lots and lots of people and changing lives, how wouldn’t I have gotten inspired by this?. Now I am recreating, innovating, bringing in new ideas, and pushing boundaries in order to continue putting smiles on faces and changing lives not only in my community but across Africa and beyond.
4. How do you produce the stoves? Where do you get your material?
Without my team, I would not accomplish what I do. I have a very dedicated team who share the same vision for the company. We have various processing that undergoes in order to come out with a stove. I have a design team, and a production team that takes the idea on paper and transforms them into physical products through machining processing such as cutting, welding, and grinding just to name a few. There is the testing phase that makes sure the stove fits the purpose. We get most of our materials locally, and some abroad.
5. What other items do you produce at Wanzie Industries? How do you make them?
At Wanzie Industries, we produce eco-friendly firewood and charcoal stoves of various sizes, universal food dehydrators and ovens of various sizes and models, dough rolling mills, a complete garri processing line from peeling to frying, hammer mills, slicing machines, barbecue grills, just to name a few.
6. What does a typical working day look like at Wanzie Industries? And how many people do you have working with you?
There are some technical workers creating a lot of noise from using the machines, at the shop, there is someone attending and selling to customers, someone on the phone attracting attending to potential customers. Personally, I have a more hectic day because I have to make sure everyone else is on track and as usual, I’m always brainstorming, researching, and looking for better ways to grow the company. At the moment my team is made up of 15 people.
7. How does it feel to invent stoves and other household items from scratch?
It is a great feeling each time we produce. I put in a lot of work and dedication into the craft and so each time we succeed either in the design, manufacturing, selling or customer feedback phases, there is always the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
8. What are the challenges that come with running a manufacturing company?
We face a couple of challenges on a daily bases. Finding good employees to add to the team, consistency in marketing due to lack of funds, poor web presence, inconsistent cash flow analysis, finding more customers, and managing the workflow and workforce, are a few of the numerous challenges we face.
9. Are there any projects or achievements you are so proud of? and Why?
Wanzie Industries and all the products and services she’s able to offer successfully is the very first achievement I’m very proud of. We have successfully produced complete three processing lines for the conversion of cassava to garri consisting of 23 machines.
10. How do you sell your products?
We have an online presence via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a website, Facebook being the platform with the most engagements. We also have a physical presence in the market. We have a showroom situated in Bamenda, Ndamukong street, and Douala, Ancienne route Bonaberi.
11. What plans does Wanzie Industries have for the future?
Our mission is to expand our production and sales point to other parts of the country and Africa. To ease customer convenience, and product access, and focus on price and customer needs.
12. What is your advice to young Cameroonians who are planning to get into business?
Personally, my philosophy so far as concerned African youths from experience is, the need to focus more on how to make their communities better, more sustainable, and healthier. Searching for problems that plague their community and finding solutions to them is key to industrialization.
Business shouldn’t be all about buying and selling ready-made products from abroad. Youths need to focus more on innovating, designing, and manufacturing products and services from scratch. Products and services that solve basic societal problems in their communities. The good thing is that everyone is liable to solve one or two problems with or without an educational background. if you have found a problem and do not have any clue on how to tackle it, start learning new skills related to the solution, find a team, and create a business around this solution or idea. On the other hand, there are youths who are passionate, these groups and the others, need discipline, consistency, and tenacity to achieve their goals. Again, to be a great African entrepreneur, the one secret is to be able to identify problems that are faced by the people on a regular bases and bring long-lasting solutions.
Africa is termed a developing continent which means we still lack industry that provides basic necessities for the people, lack of basic needs, lack of basic education in most rural areas, poor health facilities and just to name a few. On another hand, Africa is termed the richest Continent in the World because of the availabilities of abundant natural resources. It’s our place as aspiring youths to leverage this piece of information to empower us to work hard towards industrialization.
13. What do you think our Cameroonian youths need to know/do to be the Better Breed?
Leverage the free knowledge all over the web to learn new skills, and technologies to create and innovate products and services that will improve the living standards of our people today and in the future.