Audrey Chidawanyika: The African Wildfire who is disrupting mindsets, challenging boundaries and creating milestones in the entrepreneurial landscape

Audrey Chidawanyika: The African Wildfire who is disrupting mindsets, challenging boundaries and creating milestones in the entrepreneurial landscape

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By Amanda Ellen Nicola Jojo

WOMEN entrepreneurs have demonstrated their needful purpose in the economy for their enterprises are vastly increasing in the economies in almost all countries. The concealed entrepreneurial aptitudes of women have progressively been changing with the growing sensitivity to the role and economic status in the society.

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Breaking in thunder, Audrey Simbiso Chidawanyika is among the women across the globe who are sending out messages that can no longer be ignored and she has positioned herself as a noticeable name in the entrepreneurial circles. Her journey was fueled by her burning zeal to break the poverty cycle thus, Audrey is a force to be reckoned with.

Because she wears many hats as an entrepreneur, multidimensional thought leader, human capital development strategist, innovation consultancy and innovation consultant, Audrey’s story is one of resilience, riding tides and changing times hence, she has earned herself the monikers, the African Wildfire and Iron Lady.

She said: “Through my experiences, the Iron Lady was birthed. As iron, I survived furnaces and I came out stronger. Mine is a story of resilience and tenacity, riding tides and changing times. I am unstoppable, I am a woman on a mission. I am a wildfire that cuts across boundaries. I am the AFRICAN WILDFIRE!”

John Lennon once said, “A dream you make alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality,” in the light of that Audrey’s entrepreneurial journey is seamlessly aligned to that quote as her entrepreneurial motive have been driven by empathy.

 “I wanted my life to be better than how I grew up. We had it hard growing up and having been involved in a lot of small businesses and projects at home that were never sustained but ensured we survived. I knew I had to step in and get the knowledge of how to sustainably run businesses.

“My strong desire to break out of the poverty cycle that pushed me to tap into my talents and abilities led me to be a part of projects and initiatives helping others to enhance their standard of living and quality of life,” Audrey said.

Complementing her empathetic efforts to change the world, Audrey is grounded on the philosophy, “Charity begins at home.”

“I do not want to only help my family sustain its livelihood but to also help transform businesses within my community grow and scale as I know most families depend on them for livelihoods.

“In my quest to enhance the standards of living and quality of life of my family and community, I became a wildfire. My work spilled from just being Mabvuku/Tafara to being in surrounding communities,” Audrey said.

At 21 she became the Managing Director for Meatbox, a meat distributorship servicing all the 29 communities in Harare with healthy and affordable meat packs.

“Through this experience, I learnt how to run a business, to sit in meetings with stakeholders and to negotiate space for myself and others. I became unstoppable, my work crossed the boarders into the region when I got appointed the Regional Director for Southern Africa at YouthUp GlobaI.

“My role is to ensure youths in the region come together to create the Africa they want to see. We have several initiatives that are offering accessibility, capacitation and resources to young people to thrive,” she said.

From her formative years, Audrey’s passion was rooted in serving the humanity in any way possible and her first public service role was with Mavambo Trust Peer Education Program and she was the Head Peer Counsellor for Mabvuku/ Tafara.

“I have always been involved in leadership from a very young age and it came from a space of wanting to help others.

“When I learn something I always find a well to teach others as well, I believe that investing in leaders who take action for others creates a better world for us all. I have always been involved in entrepreneurial activities since childhood. I spoke about projects we did at home to put food on the table and raise fees,” Audrey said.

Other leadership roles that she held include being the Chief Operations Officer for Junior Achievement in between 2011-2012 at Bonda Mission, Zimbabwe, Financial Director for Interact and in 2015 at the University of Zimbabwe, and she the Vice President for Enactus University of Zimbabwe formerly known as SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise).

On the entrepreneurial side of things, she is the founder and lead consultant at Zipporah Consultancy, she is also the visionary and start-up growth strategist at Simbiso Jumpstart Initiative.

Zipporah Consultancy is a consortium of management consultants making a difference in the world through Innovation and Technology. It is an innovation academy capacitating forward thinking innovators get ready for the Future of Work.

“At Zipporah Consultancy, we challenge organisations and leaders to empower their teams to make positive change through creativity and experimentation. Through our workshops, boot camps, innovation sprints and facilitation tools, we help teams learn the critical skillsets, toolsets, and mind-sets of the modern workplace. Our goal is for organisations to discover their true north and ripple effect in the world. We have worked with several organisations to help them build a culture and climate for innovation,” she explained.

Simbiso Jumpstart Initiative is a registered technology business incubator (Non-Profit Corporation) that assists entrepreneurs from idea to commercial success by increasing innovation and technological development. 

“Since 2019, through a unique framework combining curriculum, coaching, connections, and community, we have helped 75 startups succeed.

“Our major highlights are the unprecedented access to growth resources, our proven start-up lifecycle-appropriate curriculum, our one-on-one coaching and mentoring by seasoned entrepreneurs and subject matter experts supplemented by a community of experienced volunteer mentors as well as support and expertise from graduate companies, as well as global sponsors and community partners,” she added.

She stands tall as a business reengineering expert this entails that she aids businesses design their value propositions from idea to commercial success.

“I research, I learn and I create synergies that allow businesses thrive in emerging markets. My work is centered on growing entrepreneurship in emerging economies hence my work with Simbiso Jumpstart Initiative, Zipporah Consultancy, Be Bold Africa, YouthUp Global, AfYEF, Generation Unlimited, Standard Chartered Foundation Futuremakers Program, Young Africa Botswana, Youth Business International, Mkaziprenuer, Shefound and many other organisations that I have left my footprints in,” she enlightened.

Audrey has got an immense passion for human development because she fortifies the viewpoint that institutions are run by people so there is need for us to capacitate them to understand their role in creating the Africa we want and a better world for others.

“We can never separate the human element in all we do that is why it’s important that we equip ourselves with the right toolsets, mindsets and skillsets to be of better contribution to humanity,” she said.

Audrey got her solid confirmation that she is indeed a Young African Leader after she was recently elevated to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Entrepreneurs Federation Continental Executive Council.

Her role in Continental Executive Council is to mobilise youths from all walks of life to be a part of the AfCFTA agenda.

“I am so thrilled to have been selected to be a part of this great continental initiative. I am living the dream. It is an acknowledgement of the work that I have done and the impact I have created.

“I strongly believe that the Africa we want is NOW. Therefore, young people should be at the centre of creating value through leveraging on networks, collaboration and co-creation. I believe so much in the African dream and reality, single market Africa, one currency Africa, one destination Africa, Free Visa regime. I am staunch believer in the United Nations (States) of Africa,” she said.

The Continental Executive Council is set to promote regional trade and integration for affiliate as well as full members.

“Through cross pollination initiatives (mentorship, investment, dialogue etc) we are creating a platform where young people are actively, positively and meaningfully contributing towards Agenda 2063 and the Global Goals,” she clarified.

As gender equity is progressively becoming adaptable, July 31 of every year was set aside for commemorating Pan African Women. The day celebrates the remarkable achievements of African women and advocates for gender equality in Africa.

Since Audrey is a multidimensional leader who reaffirmed her commitment to Pan Africanism she said women are still prone to hurdles when it comes to entrepreneurship and claiming leadership positions.

“It’s not an easy journey, it is characterized by seemingly insurmountable frontiers, but nothing can never stop a force that is determined to rise.

“Well, society was not ready for this transition, the thought of women leading was not a common phenomenon. Women were the backstage and now that we know that we also can be upstage, some men are not having that. Women have to work twice as hard to be half as good,” Audrey lamented.

She further affirmed that even though the playing field not leveled, women are disrupting those barriers and she reiterated that women are no longer part of the game but they are the game.

“Just like the legend of the Phoenix, we are rising to convey our voice of reason. We are not yet there but we are certainly not where we were. Women are taking up leadership in Public Service, Politics, Business, Economics, Arts, Entertainment, everywhere women are dominating,” Audrey stated.

In addition, she lay bare on some of the relatable challenges that women face which include being second guessed, body shamed and several other belittling attacks. Thus, she acknowledged that challenges are part of the journey to success.

“Through my interactions with other phenomenal female leaders from different walks of life, I came to the realisation that this is an attack on women in general. I was not going to make these attacks a trigger point, I grew a thick skin, fail fast and fail forward. Learn, unlearn and relearn from experiences, they are a part of your story because they are a puzzle piece that completes the bigger picture. Never stop getting better, fall in love with the journey and all its experiences,” she encouraged fellow women.

Good will and philanthropy are steadily becoming conventional facets in modern business, Audrey whose philanthropic work dates back to more than 5 years ago said she is a staunch believer of human centeredness.

“I always advocate for empathy and that’s my philosophy to philanthropy. I believe that we can all create positive, meaningful and lasting impact in the world and still get to benefit. Our focus should be to preserve our earth, to be of better service to humanity and be economically sound. I always offer my resources… time, skills, talent etc. to create a better world for others.”

Because Audrey is an influential youth her philanthropic works were inspired by her zeal to create a better world for others by curbing social ills such as, child prostitution, child marriages, , crime, child headed families, drugs and narcotics abuse.

“My heart constantly bled, I wanted to see better and I wanted to become a part of the change I wanted to see a better Mabvuku/ Tafara. A better place where children could be children. A place where no child would have to sell in public spaces and risk abuse like I did,” she said.

Audrey is a multi-award winner and earlier this year she bagged the prestigious the Forty under 40 Africa award under Professional Services, she is also listed on the 2016 Gumiguru 40 under 30 Emerging Leaders and GoGetter Founding 100.

She attributes her success to devoting to the law of attraction. 

“…you attract everything that comes to you, when you see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hands. All that I have managed to be came as a result of dreaming. I am an avid dreamer and I put in the work. The work is what separates the dreamers from the achievers. You got to roll up the sleeves, go into the kitchen and do what it takes.

“Awards and recognitions are just but the beauty of the dining room, the actual work is in the kitchen, the scalds, the burns, the falls, and the cuts all that takes a consistent person to navigate and emerge. I am testimony of the work in the trenches but when I come back I bring results, real results,” she expressed.

Established on the precepts of Christianity, she believes that God set her on an exciting course and she holds no regrets.

“Everything that has happened in the entire 29 years that I have lived is relevant to the person I have become and who I am becoming. When I look back at the wins I give myself a pat on the back and when I look at the lessons sometimes I cringe but all this was part of the design.

“If I would change anything or move a piece off the puzzle, I will definitely distort the whole picture. With its highs and lows, it’s such a beautiful journey. Yes, it is characterized by seemingly insurmountable frontiers but the Lioness of Manicaland, Princess in the East, the African Wildfire always emerges,” she remarked.

As evidenced by her entrepreneurial and leadership journey Audrey’s life is pretty much full so to unwind she shared some of the activities that help her to relax.

She said: “I always have fun when I am working. My work is a blast and fusion of fun on its own. I guess that’s what happens when you do what you love. Passion is never work. When I travel with work, I always find time to try out new food, meet people and enjoy the nightlife. I also have an amazing team, driven and forward-thinking innovators, servant leaders (most of them are my mentees) who ensure that in the busyness of everything I remember to catch a breath and a glass of sparkling wine.”

On reflection, ambitious Audrey said: “I cannot sleep knowing there is so much I have to give before my time is up. My work now involves juggling time zones. I love it, it’s my passion so it keeps me up at night.”

Her parting advice is: “The Africa we want is NOW and you have a part to play in making the world a better place. I know that as a generation we are going through the most but this is the time to have a positive mental attitude, to roll up the sleeves and put in the work. Go out there and build on your social currency leverage on it to build on your other currencies… financial currency, intellectual currency, you name them. The world is your stage and it’s waiting for you to step into the light and give it your best performance. Dominate!”

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