“We Give Plots to Athletes to help them when they are not at their Peak”; Innobuild’s Billy Jonathan Chiwotha
Billy Jonathan Chiwotha is the man behind Innobuild Private Ltd, a company that became in the spotlight recently for offering free land to outstanding athletes in the country.
The gesture has almost become a tagline on social media especially when athletes perform extraordinarily. People take to social media pleading for a plot toward the particular star performer.
Chiwotha says it all began when news made rounds when the national football team was playing at the Africa Cup of Nations that Innobuild had awarded a plot to a goalkeeper for his performance when several other companies were pledging to award players plots.
“We refuted that through a press release because there was nothing of that sort. To our dismay, people vented their anger on us for failure by some companies to fulfil their pledges to give the players the land,” he said.
He, however, says he later received a firm request to consider awarding a plot to Asimenye Simwaka who represented Malawi well at the Olympic Games in 2022.
“We awarded not only Asimenye but also her coach, Pasichi Nyasulu, with plots in Mzuzu. This opened up an opportunity for us to show our gratitude towards those who perform well in sports in the country,” he said.
Simwaka told the media then that “this is a rare and encouraging gesture. I am sure that my fellow athletes will get encouraged by such rewards.”
According to Chiwotha, the plots are offered on condition.
“As opposed to rewarding them with money, we believe that sport is a short-lived career which in most cases leaves those in it in a dire economic situation when they retire. We, therefore, give them plots with the condition of not selling it to support them when they are not at their peak,” Chiwotha said.
Nine plots have so far been given out to the athletes “and we still see ourselves awarding more players when performance prevails,” said Chiwotha.
Nevertheless, Chiwotha says “some people feel our promises are just marketing gimmicks because of unmet promises by others.
“This is one of negative feedback that we receive from the people but they turn back and believe us after we deliver our promises. Of course some people also feel that we are biased when rewarding the athletes. They wish it were them receiving the plots but that is typical of a human being. They wish all good things belong to them,” he said.
“We have also received huge positive feedback from the gesture, mostly in reaffirming us as a brand which values Malawians. We have learnt from the feedback to be more attentive to how we conduct ourselves,” he added.
Journey to support sports development
Rewarding the athletes in such a way is just one example of Chiwotha’s love for sports. He says he has contributed to sports development in various other ways.
The journey started in 2020, Chiwotha says, when Innobuild Private Limited first sponsored the Mzimba District Football League with K3 million.
“The sponsorship was later hiked to K5 million through a partnership with the Football Association of Malawi. In 2021 we partnered with Simama to sponsor the regional league with K10 million. This is the time Karonga United and Chitipa United came back into super league after levels of competition had been raised through the increase of the sponsorship from K5 million,” he said, adding that they also partnered in 2020 with Mzuzu Boxers fight with an aim to motivate the youth to participate in active sports activities and nurture their talent.
To be where he is now, Chowotha had to overcome life challenges that stood his way.
Born from a family of a divorced butchery man and a subsistence lady farmer in 1986 at Chitedze in Lilongwe, Billy was raised up by an uncle who was plying trade at Lilongwe main market.
“I completed primary school at Lakeview Seventh day Adventist Mission School in 2001 and secondary school in 2004 at Ulemu wa Atate Private School. I attained an ACCA professional first levels in 2007 and I am currently a Fourth Year student at Exploits University studying Business Administration Degree,” he said.
“I taught business studies at Athens Private Schools in Area 23 in 2001 before joining Lilongwe Water Board as Stores Clerk in 2008. I left in 2010 and worked as Operations Manager at Ching’onga Estate Agents up to 2012.
“I co-founded Skymobile Limited with my friends and I was the Chief Executive Officer. Two years down the line, we parted ways and I was left destitute in 2013. I worked in a barbershop for survival before starting baking scones at Chigwiri,” he narrated.
His life journey proceeded in 2014 when he received K500 thousand from the defunct Skymobile and used the money to venture into a restaurant business while exploring opportunities in the real estate sector.
“By grace of God in 2015 I landed into three successive real estate deals worth Mk1 million. I paid tithe. I am an Adventist. I used MK240 thousand to pay for my fiancé’s (now my lovely Wife) school fees at Magomero College. I bought a laptop at MK100 thousand and used Mk450, 000.00 to buy a Toyota Corolla which stayed at a garage for 2 months as I had run out of funds to fix it.
“I later fixed the car and used it during the day for my errands and during the night as a taxi. That is how I mobilised resources to set up Innobuild Private Limited together with my Swedish business partner. Innobuild means Innovative Building,” he said.
Chiwotha says the partnership was strong from 2015 until 2017 when it turned sour “and we parted ways. I bought his shares. The company nearly collapsed in 2018 due to financial issues but resurrected in 2019 when I bought a piece of land in Lilongwe.”
“Our growth to date has also inspired growth of the sector with the coming in of numerous providers on the market. This has increased competition but still we strive to maintain best service provision which has indeed worked. We have seven branches across the country,” said Chiwotha.