WHEN life throws you lemons make lemonade, such is the business journey of one Jerry More Nyazungu who started off as an airtime vendor in the streets of Harare. As Winston Churchill said, failure is not fatal, but it is the courage to continue that counts. Today, Jerry is the founder and CEO of M&J Holdings, a successful Consultancy Group driven to improve the country’s economy and create employment. The Entrepreneurial Magazine met up with him to share his life story and business journey highlighting how he rose above challenges and claimed his space in business. Find the interview below:
QN: How was your life like before entrepreneurship?
ANS: I didn’t go to university because of financial issues, I wasn’t the only child. After A ‘level, I did temporary teaching for 8 months in the Honde Valley, that’s where I came across articles by Dr Gono that then inspired me to become a Chartered Institute Secretary, I wanted to follow his footsteps. I later went to Harare and a started working at Edgars’ under the dispatching department for 8 months. I was evicted from home by my distant cousins the same day my contract expired.
In the midst of inflation in Zimbabwe, Edgars gave me $9million Zimbabwean dollars (zwl) as my last salary and l used half of it for rent and another 4.5milion I invested in the juice cards, which I started selling near a police station. Each juice card costed 500 000zwl around that time. That’s when I started vending in 2006 June-2009. Three weeks later I diversified and started selling sweets, bananas and cigarettes.
QN: Tell us about your experience as a vendor? How was it like?
ANS: What I can tell you about this is that it wasn’t easy but the money I got from vending that helped me get an education and send my brother to University. I also I learnt various skills I am implementing now. I was selling near a police station where there was less competition but police brutality didn’t spare me. I’m actually writing a book titled ‘The chartered vendor’, which is inspired by the fact that l got most of my entrepreneurial lessons from vending, it instilled the right business attitude in me.
QN: What other businesses besides vending did you venture into before founding M&J Consultancy?
ANS: I started the payphone business, in which I employed 3 people. I would collect my money on a weekly basis. The first employee I got, had to fire him in less than a month, which was a result of recruiting a person just from nowhere, without knowing him first.
I also tried the Photocopying business, but it was a nightmare. In a week we would make 50 dollars and about $45 would go to the repairs because the machines were a nightmare. I then registered M & J.
QN: How did the idea of founding M&J Consultancy come in your mind and what triggered action?
ANS: There is a guy I met, Commissioner Munyangarirwa where I wanted to certify my papers because I was looking for a job. He looked at my papers and asked why l was looking for a job instead of utilising what I had. “You are sitting on a gold mine, why not start a consultancy company,” those were his words. He advised me to get a shelf company so we started as a partnership with a friend who was my partner in the failed photocopying company. I finally understood was consultancy was all about and was directed to the deeds office.
Today M&J Consultants is a business advisory that assists its partners to formalise, structure and optimise their businesses. We offer company secretarial services, booking keeping and accounting as well as taxation services and enterprise solutions amongst others.
QN: What did it take for you to build a strong brand?
ANS: A genuine interest in the customers and seeing them succeed. A definite mission which for me is to play my part in restoring the Zimbabwean economy to its peak and creating employment for young Zimbabweans.
QN: Starting and scaling up a business is a challenge; how did you successfully carry out the transition with M&J Consultancy?
ANS: It is very tough when you have little experience. You cannot grow a company without increasing number of employees. I had to employ someone in the third month and empowered those whom I work with all the resources.
I faced a challenge of trying to create a market from nowhere, were you are not known and clients don’t trust you. My office was also looking shabby, and in some cases I had to go and stand at the registrar of companies’ door step so as to approach clients when leaving the registrar’s office.
With consultancy, I also needed a car since there is a lot to do. I trusted a Zambian guy and lost USD$1500 to him for customs duty. That was the biggest setback. In entrepreneurship you inevitably face problems but with the right attitude I sailed through. The vending business had equipped me enough for that.
QN: M&J is diversifying into Media and Tech, what is the inspiration behind that?
ANS: Like all the growth we have experienced the diversification is as a direct result of the needs of our customers. M&J Media was formed because after registration our clients would need to have logos and websites designed. After referring them to other vendors for some time and seeing them frequently disappointed and taken advantage of, we decided to begin offering the service. M&J Tech was formed in much the same way with a lot of our customers making enquiries on computers after receiving enterprise solutions.
QN: Is diversification something every entrepreneur should look forward to do?
ANS: We started in the field of registering companies and some people might think we are growing M & J through company Registration which is not true. If you look at it closely many people are now doing company Registration so the competition is increasing and some of these people are the people around you. Every day you are working with people who are ambitions, some who think they can do this better than you so you must always play your cards right and the only way to do that is to diversify. What am saying is we keep on evolving to the point that if one leaves in December, in March the following year they won’t know what will be doing at M & J.
QN: What words would you want to share with some aspiring Entrepreneurs and other business people out there?
ANS: Our economy is not well and I don’t think that it’s the responsibility of our government only, but to everyone to change the path of our economy. Whoever wants to venture into entrepreneurship should know that it’s a war zone. People should stop complaining and blaming the environment, blaming parents or the fact of being African. We should be able to make our own vaccines and if we can’t then we should change our minds not to be consumers only we need to start manufacturing and become innovative. We must be able to think outside the box. Instead of exporting our raw materials we should be manufacturing, that’s the only way we can compete with the western world.
QN: Any books you recommend for other entrepreneurs out there?
ANS: 10X Rule by Grant Cardone my virtual mentor, other books like if you are not first you are last, I recommend every book by Grant. I also recommend the book by Zig Ziglar “Secrets to closing a sale.”
- Customer Service Focus Award: Megafest Business Awards for the Northern Region
- Young Executive Person Award: Megafest Business Awards for the Northern Region
- SMEs Chief Executive Officer / Managing Director / General Managing / Chief Operations Officer of the Year 2020: Institute of Corporate Directors Zimbabwe