Celebrating Female Business leaders
‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made’
Afra challenges the male dominated transport industry
ACCORDING to research, women contribute to the transformation of mobility, they frequently remain invisible and their contribution to safer, more inclusive and more sustainable transport is insufficiently acknowledged. One Dr Afra Nhanhanga chose to challenge the narrative and led from the front, transforming the transport industry in the country.
Afra is the Director of CAG Travellers Coaches operating a fleet of 115 buses— which are CAG Tours, Galaxy, Golden Heritage and Edlux. She possesses more than 20 years’ experience in transport business and is a recipient of Businesswoman of the year Award in the Transport Sector for 2020, while her company was honoured with the Bus and Transport Services Company of the Year Award.
When her father Golden Nhanhanga founded CAG Travellers Coaches in 1997, Afra started out as a conductor for the buses while her brother sold tickets with their father Nhanhanga as the driver.
“At the time, it was taboo to be a woman conductor but my father allowed it because I was his first-born child and my young brothers were still at school and would help here and there,” Afra recalls. “When the business commenced in 1997, I was asked to even attend meetings but the men would heckle and demand that I leave meetings because they did not believe that she could run a successful transport business.”
While violence and lack of respect for women in the transport sector is widely acknowledged as one of the most important “push” factors that lead to involuntary quits, Afra stood her ground and today she leads one of the biggest fleets of buses that ply various routes across the country.
“The transport industry needs more grace and wisdom since it involves people’s lives. It is the passion that drives me and the zeal to reach great heights that pushes me to compete with men in this industry,” she said.
Apart from the transport sector, Afra is also into farming cash crops like tobacco and other market gardening vegetables like cabbages, onions and potatoes at her farm in Karoi. She was recently honored with another award in South Africa for helping less privileged people and empowering women through self-help projects. #Choose2Challenge
Shamiso and Tsitsi takes on the Home Designs and construction industry
WORLDWIDE, the construction industry is still largely regarded as a male domain where women are not taken seriously as professionals and society, tradition, organisational culture and sexist attitudes play a major role when appointing women in construction. A United Nations study further shows that infrastructure projects are gender blind with women being the least represented in employment in the construction sector with only 3,5 percent women and 96,5 percent men.
However, for Shamiso Machaya and her sister Tsitsi Heslop, changing this narrative is inevitable. The duo threw caution to the wind and co-founded C & R Home designs and Construction Pvt in 2018. “Research indicates that women in construction are underrepresented and we have taken it upon ourselves to push this underrepresentation and bring change for tomorrow through an increased capability of women within challenging industries,” Shamiso said.
“Although construction is still largely regarded as a male domain, change should take place in the industry to rectify this specific train of thought and culture, and those women equally deserve to participate in construction even though it may be considered as a place for men only.”
Shamiso believes that founding C & R Home designs and Construction was an ultimate goal of creating employment for the unemployed skilled youths within Zimbabwe. “The services that we provide are home improvements, construction, including specialist works such as architectural, plumbing, installation of solar systems and electrical works,” she said.
C&R Home Designs & Construction offers services for Zimbabweans living in diaspora by helping them to rebuild a modern Zimbabwe and has started introducing its services to the local communities in Zimbabwe.
The company started after Shamiso had identified talent in her cousin who was into joinery. She then advertised the cousin’s services in a Facebook Community which brought attention of the audience and some months down the line, they got their first contract of kitchen renovation and the rest is history.
She is so glad to have managed to maintain this vision within the pandemic, when most small businesses are crumbling. To her, the entrepreneurial journey has been like a roller coaster, as she has encountered numerous challenges such as discrimination, since the sector is male-dominated. The spirit of continuing with the vision has however kept her going in such difficult times.
Shamiso is passionate about women economic empowerment through the stimulation of entrepreneurial tendencies via training, coaching, mentorship and community cohesion activities. She has an interest in eliminating barriers that deter women from achieving their full economic aspirational goals. #Choose2Challenge
Chef Nyasha shines her light in Culinary Business
NYASHA Mbizvo-Mangwiro is a contemporary, vibrant and creative chef with experience from various parts of the world. She is the founder and executive chef of Chef Studios and Bespoke Cakes ZW. The 26year old started her professional journey around 2013 when she was pursuing her studies in International hospitality and hotel management at Vatel International Business School in Mauritius, which also had its main campus in Southern France.
During the course of her training, she acquired a lot of knowledge that’s when she discovered that she wanted to work in the culinary field, not the management part of the Tourism and Hospitality Sector. She worked in various Five Star Hotels and Restaurants in Mauritius, France, Zanzibar and finally UEA where she worked at the Emirates Palace as chef and personal butler to royal families. She was offered a job in the Emirates Palace before she could finish her training, she however turned down the offer and that was the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey.
She came back to Zimbabwe and decided to work on her catering company that she had registered in 2014 and it now includes cooking classes that took off in 2017. She first advertised her cooking classes on her Instagram page and had 14 participants in her first class. Now on a yearly basis, she takes more than 200 people for her classes and due to covid-19 they have shifted to virtual classes.
The main inspiration behind Chefs Studios was to introduce home cooking, that is bringing restaurant quality food to the family table. Bespoke Cakes ZW specialises in simple anytime delicious cakes. Nyasha also offers catering Services for various events.
Like any other entrepreneurs, Nyasha has also faced some challenges in her journey which includes doubt from clients, if she can deliver as young as she is. Self-doubt whether she could meet the customer’s expectations. Customers at sometimes doubt some of the meals she posts online and in some scenarios she had to recook the meals to prove herself. However, the support she gets from her parents, brothers and husband has always inspired her not to give up as well as feedbacks she gets from customers.
The talented master chef encouraged women “to own their crown” in every way possible and follow their hearts in pursuing their life goals. To aspiring young entrepreneurs, she reiterated the need to be passionate, unique, compete with themselves and be wide researchers. #Choose2Challenge
Women in Enterprise: Sympathy takes the lead
SYMPATHY Sibanda-Mazuruse is a 33-year-old multi-award-winning entrepreneur who has broken the glass ceiling in the world of business. She founded Amandla Brands and co-owning Esteem Communications at a young age.
Amandla Brands is a local digital marketing, public relations and brand development company that specialises in organic foods like peanut butter, a variation of nuts and raisins, brown rice and brown rice flour as well as snacks. The company has maintained a steady growth since inception.
“It was natural for me to choose peanut butter production as a business because my mother taught me how to make it while I was in high school and I knew how to operate all the machinery. Even though it all started out as a joke, it outgrew me,” Sympathy said. “The reason I chose the particular food business was because peanut butter making came so naturally to me and it is the same peanut butter business that my mother did that contributed to the money that took my siblings and myself to school and also fed us.”
Being at the helm of Amandla Brands, a company that has become a good reference point for many marketing clients, Sympathy has managed to maintain stability in an unfriendly economic environment and her company is still growing bigger.
“Amandla Brands was born out of the desire to demonstrate our brand development acumen by way of building a company of our own from scratch,” she said.
Symapthy added that she is also engaging in trainings to mentor women who would like to get in business but have no idea what is needed. Amandla Brands has become a creative hub for women to share experiences and push each other to run profitable businesses.
The young entrepreneur also co-owns a marketing and branding company, Esteem Communications, with her husband, which was born out of a combination of the love for writing and marketing.
Sibanda-Mazuruse is the winner of the 2018 CBZ Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP) award, 2019 1st Runner-Up award under the manufacturing sector at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Women in Enterprise award and 2020 awards.
Karen Nyenga, the Real Estate boss
KAREN Nyenga is an experienced Real Estate Agent in Zimbabwe with experience in Local, Regional and International Real Estate Markets. She owns the Zimbabwe License for Fine & Country, which is a part of the renowned global brand with a network of over 300 offices worldwide.
She is also the Director of Industry Girls Network (IGN), an association which is focused on assisting women in business solidify their positions, collaborate and be profitable. She also enjoys being involved with initiatives that change and inspire people’s lives, and has recently through Fine & Country Foundation, become an active supporter of the local initiative Eat Out Movement, which works diligently against the plight of homelessness and hunger.
Recalling on how she started, at the age of 33 she gained the courage to leave a company she had been working for and venture into the franchise world and she is the sole owner of the Fine & Country license here in Zimbabwe.
She admitted that it was not an easy experience for her and she calls some of the experiences “the battle scars” obviously where she did walk out victorious.
With their offices located at 20 Maasdorp Avenue, Belgravia in Harare. Her Real Estate Company offers sales and rental services, Interior Design and Architectural Services, Construction and Consultancy Services.
Speaking of some challenges she has faced in her entrepreneurial journey, the first being lack of confidence to leave her formal job in a shrinking economy, where lines of credit were not being extended and most of the strategic plans required significant finances to execute. The matter of existing competitors in the industry was another challenge she faced, how to grow their market, remaining relevant and executing their service mandate to clients profitably. The inspiration to keep going came internally from family, friends and obviously the team of employees. #Choose2Challenge
Joseline, one of the top influencers in the SMEs Sector
JOSELINE Sithole is the founder of Southern Africa Development Consultants and Gosseberry (SODECO), who was born and bred in the Eastern Highlands. Taking inspiration from her late mother, who was a go getter, Joseline lives to empower other women through business training. Her passion lies in developing grassroots and unreached women throughout Africa with business skills. She is also a passionate writer and reader in various publications and she currently writing a book on Women Entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe and another one on Surviving Divorce.
SODECO is a company that conducts a wide array of research and is well known for leading in SME research. The company also conducts capacity building workshops and entrepreneurial skills training for women and youths, it also runs teen’s Entrepreneurial capacity building workshops. Gooseberrywas solely formed to conduct research within the advertising Sector
Recalling on how she started, Joseline highlighted that a friend of her always appreciated the hustle-preneur in her. She then attended a Women’s Business Expo in South Africa where she met women like Basetsana Kumalo that then inspired her to start SODECO in 2016. Speaking on challenges she has faced in her entrepreneurial journey, she referred Zimbabwe as a highly patriarchal society where women experts find it very hard to break into the corporate arena. Secondly, SEDECO targets the SMEs community, who to her does not understand the need to hire consultants and furthermore pay Consultants fees. However, the desire to leave a legacy for her daughter has always kept her going. Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs was start! #Choose2Challenge
Forget Shareka, The lady behind Chashi Foods
FORGET Shareka, who is an agronomist engineer by profession and also pursuing MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, is an ardent entrepreneur who enjoys contributing to the community and economic development by using her skills to contribute to innovative business development and the exciting technological advances in the food processing industry.
Driven by her passion for making a positive social impact and bringing about change in the agriculture and food sectors, she Co-Founded Chashi Foods in 2018 after realising that postharvest losses are a big challenge facing farmers in Zimbabwe and Africa at large, hence her focus on food processing.
After becoming a Thought for Food (TFF) ambassador due to her participation in the Food Solution Challenge in 2018, she interacted with farmers and vendors in Chinhoyi and Mbare Musika, which revealed that farmers lose up to 45% of their incomes in postharvest losses and almost 40% of their produce goes into waste. This then made her come up with a team to work with and start Chashi Foods, with zero amount in the Bank. Money came later when they had developed their projects prototypes.
Having started commercial operations in February 2020, an unfortunate time that coincided with the global pandemic, Covid-19. You can imagine the damage that this brought to a start-up’s supply chain. Lack of capital and collateral security to get loans from commercial banks has been another challenge for her, she has since resorted to personal funding and seed capitals from different organisations.
Forget is also a humanitarian who does rural community development work in Mbire District through Life Hope Future Association which she founded in 2017. #Choose2Challenge
Women taking the lead in Digital Communications
GERALDINE Eve is the founder and CEO of 143 Communications, a digital Media Company that offers services such as: Social Media Platform Creation, Management, Advertising and Marketing, Website Development and Management as well as App Development.
First registering a company at 17, Geraldine later forgot about the entrepreneurship in her whilst working for a local newspaper company, only to get back to track after being fired. 143 Communications came as a result of her being fired from a local newspaper company. Being fired rejuvenated the spirit of having her own business.
Diving into the digital space in 2014, which the Zimbabwean market was not yet ready for, was one challenge Geraldine faced. However, persistence later brought the break through. Geraldine has been featured in the Top 100 Young African Entrepreneurs Trailblazer in the TYI 2018 Awards, won an award as one of the finalists in the CBZ Youth Entrepreneurship 2019 Program, appeared in the lists of the young entrepreneurs to look out for in the year 2019 and being nominated in the top 100 young business women in Africa 2020. She also currently sits in four boards, some being LASACCO and PAICTA.
Inspired by her semi-literate grandmother and hard-working mother, she grew up knowing that one day she was going to be an entrepreneur.
Being a woman came with some disadvantages in her journey as some men thought that she would be willing to go through the red-carpet interview to get the contracts, and at one point because her answer was a no she lost a big contract. However, the stubbornness in her and the support she got from family, friends, business colleagues and husband kept her going. #Choose2Challenge
Samantha’s SkinAdore Holistic Skincare business
Samantha Samkange is the Owner and Director of SkinAdore Holistic Skincare, a wellness brand that focuses on helping skin heal itself through use of wild crafted products they make from plant extracts, herbs and essential oils. She is a qualified Aestheticians and also holds qualifications related to management, marketing and dermatology.
The desire to give everyone who came through her hands beautiful skin “skin yekuchando” is what gave birth to Samantha’s brand. Her major challenge was infiltrating the skin care industry in a time when Zimbabwe was and still experiencing high inflation rate, in these conditions, she finds it difficult for one to recommend after-care products to clients. Also the culture of Zimbabweans has been a threat to her business, as they classify skin care and wellness under luxury. However, passion makes her motivated in all difficulty times.
SkinAdore offers various skin treatments services, from an in-depth skin analysis that goes as far as testing the skin, water content, overall skin barrier function to electrical facial treatments and clinical grade peels. Their vitamin and plant based products are also available in leading pharmacies and other spas. Their spa offers African themed treatments derived from Moroccan culture, savannah environment and different African traditions.
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to practice saving from an early stage, pursuing their passions like it’s the last “ZUPCO” of the day and also to network with likeminded individuals.
Women in food processing: Shumbakadzi Investments
Blessing Machiya, who believes that being a first born and growing up around boys helped her in becoming a resilient and hardworking business leader she is today.
She started her company around 2017, when she was a single mother and her only stream of income was from the job she had at a local seminary as a secretary. Driven by the desire to do great things, during lunch hours she would go on Facebook, that’s when she followed Dr Strive Masiyiwa and the first post that she read asked her a challenging question on starting, “What do you have?” this changed her mentality towards starting a business. One day as she walked past a vegetable and fruit market, she saw a pile of rotting products and she knew that she had to come up with a solution to that and the idea of sun drying frits came in her mind. Trying to dry some fruits was not easy for her till she went on to research on how to do it better and that gave birth to Shumbakadzi Investment.
Shumbakadzi now offers dried fruits and a few vegetables. She also has a lot of new products she is set to introduce before the end of this quarter and operations are currently in Bulawayo.
Speaking on challenges she faced, she described Entrepreneurship as a difficult and lonely journey. Though her business had started receiving orders from the early stage, her efforts to raise money from borrowing from family and friends were not successful and she had to save from her small salary. At some times, it could rain and that would ruin a whole batch and this she responded with getting a dehydrator in 2019 and now considering bigger machines this year. #Choose2Challenge
This article was first featured in the March Issue of The Entrepreneurial Magazine. In the month of women.