RUBBING shoulders and exchanging notes with global business giants like Strive Masiyiwa, Lucy Pent, Ibukun Awosika, Joe Tsai and Jack Ma was a bigger step to achieving great goals for Ethel Chiwara Mupambwa, Money Mart Finance Zimbabwe founder.
Ethel has earned her piece of the pie in the Jack Ma Foundation’s philanthropic entrepreneur program in Africa which started in 2019 with the aim to identify, spotlight and support African entrepreneur heroes creating impact in their communities and building a more inclusive economy for the future.
She recently battled with over 20 000 entrepreneurs for the Business Hero award in the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) competition and emerged victorious, scooping the 2nd runner up award and pocketing a whooping US$150 000 cash prize for her MoneyMart Finance (Pvt) Limited microfinance business.
ABH aims to recognise 100 African entrepreneurs, allocating US$100million over the next 10 years in the form of grant funding, training, mentoring and learning initiatives, access to key networks, and to develop a vibrant entrepreneur community to support Africa’s future business leaders.
“The Africa Business Heroes award has catapulted me to a growth level which I always dreamt of. It is one thing to know that you are a born entrepreneur and another to be confirmed by great entrepreneurs that you are one,” Ethel told The Entrepreneurial magazine.
“What stood out about the award for me was the Reality Challenge. To be given a result-oriented task with a very slim budget and to deliver in a matter of hours. I learnt that an entrepreneur has to think on her feet, quickly plan, choose the right team for a task and implement timeously.”
Founding Money Mart Finance business in 2012 and finally registering with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in 2013 with official operations starting in 2014, Ethel had a deep-desire to change people’s lives, particularly women and youths by ensuring that the marginalised groups are financially-included.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), women have become engines for economic growth, and achieving gender diversity in enterprises is of critical importance to improving business outcomes.
“The idea was inspired by the desire to be a mentor and coach to informal traders by promoting financial literacy through provision of funds and basic financial management,” the mother of two said.
“As a young woman growing in Zimbabwe, I have always been challenged to step into the gap to create the future that l want to see, as l realised that I am one of those people our nation has been waiting for to change the lives of our societies.”
Money Mart Finance is tailor-made for businesspeople in the informal sector, especially women selling fruits, vegetables and second-hand clothing, among other businesses. It seeks to include those excluded by large financial institutions.
Loans and credit are given based on one’s cash flow with repayments methods done daily, weekly or monthly. The business which started operations using a veranda as an office now boasts with six branches — three in Harare and one each in Mutare, Bindura and Mhondoro.
“Having studied Finance, I never lost my dream of wanting to make sure that women are financially independent. I am a very sociable person and was able to relate with all classes of women hearing their challenges and what they think would improve their livelihood and that is how the microfinance business was birthed,” Ethel revealed.
“Years back when I lost my job, I ventured into cake baking and would walk from one hair saloons to another all-around town selling my cakes. The first office was in my veranda, which was also piled up with baking tins.”
Retracing her footsteps in the world of business, Ethel reckon how her upbringing did not really prepare her for the business world, but gave her the boldness to be able to stand for who she is and study how she would be able to solve the challenge which she experienced first-hand in a patriarchal society.
Hailing from rural Gokwe in Nembudziya, Ethel was born to a businessman and polygamist father Chiwara, who was oblivious when it came to the financial independence of daughter and wives of the family, yet giving first preference to boys.
“My father’s shops were written ‘Chiwara Stores and Sons’ and not even wives, what more we daughters? I always wondered where we girls of the family were in the whole equation. I grew up in a strong patriarch society where boys were given the first preference in everything no matter how young,” she narrated.
“From that experience, I told myself l would challenge this status quo and make sure women are counted in, in any case they are the first educators of human life. Women need to be financially independent if societies are to improve at a faster rate. This contributed so much to my dream as a Financial Inclusion Evangelist.”
Inspired by the inborn spirit of entrepreneurship from her father who ran a business in Gokwe growth point, Ethel never missed a chance to make a dollar for herself. Her first official business whilst at college, was an internet café as the need for typed assignments and use of emails was growing.
“As an entrepreneur, I have hit the bottom. The first microfinance company l opened in 2011 was a disaster, its failure was a learning curve for me, furthermore I did not think I was alone in this ordeal as I would tell myself that Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). I have so much faith and Jesus Christ has never let me down,” said the business tycoon.
“I have always told myself that fortune favours the brave. I always had a very strong determination to face an adversity that comes my way. I regard challenges as exam papers to ferry me to the next level after having passed.
“Raising capital as a woman proved to be very difficult, that’s the main reason MoneyMart was born. The journey so far has not been a smooth sailing one. There has been many sleepless and crying nights along it, but it was worth it.”
Ethel dreams of a MoneyMart Finance that is digital MFI not only in Zimbabwe, but in Southern Africa as she believes that creating wealth and changing lives of the marginalized groups would be the greatest testimony ever heard, done by MoneyMart Finance in innovative ways.
“The sky is not even the limit. I will reach those heights not because of the gender card, but by merit,” she added.