AS they say, ‘Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.’ This adage rings true to Roselyn Musarurwa-Charehwa whose company (Surdax Investments) started by chance more than a decade ago and has now expanded into Zambia.
When retrenchment knocked on Musarurwa-Charehwa’s door in 2004 when she was comfortably working for the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), she decided to dive into entrepreneurship with her retrenchment package and was ducking at all corners – from selling clothes she would have bought in Dubai, to partnering with other women to offer catering services – before finally finding her breakthrough in 2009 when she founded Surdax Investments.
“Surdax came by chance. I recall when l was doing catering, I tendering for a certain job and in that tender, I mentioned in a very small paragraph, using small font, that we do clean up after cooking so the company was much more interested in that. We were then called to do cleaning instead of catering,” Musarurwa-Charehwa told the Entrepreneurial Magazine. “I am someone who really cares about my surrounding, thus cleanliness has been a concern of mine so it was like second to nature to venture into cleaning. Since then, I haven’t looked back, instead I have tried to make sure that I expand on that by being innovative in that same service.”
Surdax Investments offers cleaning services for corporates and has evolved over the years to a manufacturing entity that produces hygiene products like Sparkle dishwash, Mr Shine Hard surface cleaner and ultra-soft fabric softener.
Charehwa’s years of hard work and determination to be a financially independent woman came to fruition as she was quick to identify gaps in a struggling economic environment.
“I have tried many business ventures before and they failed. The idea is not to give up, once you fail you get up and start all over again. I consider failure as an advantage to start all over again, while having a different perspective. Don’t despise failure, learn from it,” the proud mother of four added.
“I had been a retailer, caterer and vendor, and the realisation that the entrepreneurship was my passion came by accident. It took a lot of brainstorming and many false starts but the cleaning services company was my breakthrough and now it has grown to a manufacturing company.
“The secret of staying in business is consistency, making sure that your customer services is on point and employees are happy. And then your drive your sales relentlessly. Plan ahead, it has been a game change for Surdax, we plan ahead. As well as a good and motivated team.”
The ISO certified Surdax has offered services to large corporates like Econet, TelOne, Total Zimbabwe, and they have worked with parastatals such as the Zimbabwe Power Company, and also employees an approximate of 400 employees.
“Surdax has tried to employ more female workers in a move to promote gender equity; in 2021 we had a target of having 65% females and 35% males. At our head office, we have more women than men,” Charehwa said.
“We also have orphanages and old people home that we partner with to give them supplies, as well as hospitals and prisons. I’m also involved in a lot of things like Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services as the Chairperson of Zimbabwe Female open prisons that started on the 2nd of June.”
The businesswoman added that running a business also presented challenges as it required someone with an appreciation of academics. Upon realisation that running a successful business needed education, she took over from where she had left and upgraded her academics portfolio. She went on to study business leadership, strategic management, and transformational leadership and now she has a Masters in Business Administration.
“After doing my ordinary level I never bothered to proceed to Advanced level as I started working immediately after school,” Charehwa said.
“However, as I ran the company, I realised that I lacked people management skills and that to run a large corporate. I wished to go back to school. I then enrolled with Zimbabwe Institute of Management and did a diploma in executive business leadership from there, I was unstoppable I was confident and now wanted to learn more.
“I went to USA and got a scholarship to do Transformational leadership course, I was chosen by Global Women leadership network. After that I then did Talent Identification which was run by brilliant entrepreneurs. I then did strategic business management, which was funded by SIDA. Currently in studying with Harvard Business School through women presidents’ organisation. I am looking forward to go for a local university to do a Doctoratein something preferably in strategizing business management.”
The company’s prowess in offering best services did not go unnoticed as they won several awards locally and internationally over the years, including the 2020 Woman director of the year IODZ, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) award, the Women in Enterprise Conference award (Weca) for SME of the year 2019, Belgium — International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Award (Iwec), Woman-owned Company of the year from the Professional Women Executives and Business Women’s Forum (Proweb).
Charehwa revealed that the business journey is not always rosy as she is still facing challenges to this day. “As a start-up, access to finance was a huge issue and lack of training in people management, which I resolved by going back to school. Managing employees so that they stay motivated is also a challenge I am facing to date,” she said.
“And also challenges with males thinking that a lady shouldn’t be managing such a company, but that’s no longer an issue now, I have earned my status and people have now started to accept it.”
Charehwa added that she has been able to overcome some challenges due to her supportive husband Lucky Charehwa.
“In scaling up, the leader has to be leaner, remember lessons come from everywhere. Also look at what competition is doing, locally, regionally and globally,” she said.