By Amanda Ellen Nicola Jojo
A profound revolution is sweeping across the entrepreneurial landscape, there has been an emerging population of brilliant minds who blur the lines between big business and social impact, thus harnessing sustainable development through technology.
The Entrepreneurial Magazine Editor (AJ) caught up with a local technopreneur Tinofara Mutovongi (TM) who is part of the new generation of innovators through his venture Ixar Mobile.
Below are the key takeaways of the interview
AJ: Tell us about yourself and kindly highlight your life before entrepreneurship.
TM: My name is Tinofara Mutovongi, I grew up in rural areas in Chikomba district near Sadza growth point. I started my high school at Neshangwe high school and whilst there I met a guy called Zviko who’s still my friend and he was the only guy with a phone in that had internet access in our class and one of the few at the whole school. He created my Facebook account for me and showed man called Strive Masiyiwa whom he said was a millionaire. I can say I really felt some fire in me and said I would want to be like him, I started researching about him every chance I had, I remember one day in the school computer lab looking him up on the encyclopedia. From then my interest in business has grown and I’m still on that oath.
AJ: Where did the idea for your business (Ixar mobile) came from? How did your start your business?
TM: I was working for a company that was into phone business and I discovered there was a market in supplying phone spare parts and I left the company to start mine.
TM: What services do you offer?
AJ: Our business is divided into two parts basically, that is software development services where we do custom software and we also offer a boardroom management system as (SaaS). The other part is a training facility where we offer training in smartphone and Laptop Repair, that’s what we started with and is in line with our vision to build a smartphone brand here in Zimbabwe and across Africa.
AJ: How did you win your first customers, investors and possibly first business partners?
TM: Personally, I’m not scared of approaching people when I know they could be of help, so some of my clients and partners I specifically went to events where they were speaking and then work my way out to get an audience with them. Some it’s through direct messaging, if you have a valid proposition people will surely give you their numbers and grant you meetings.
AJ: How did or do you deal with self-doubt and doubt from others? How did you push through your biggest business doubts?
TM: Some doubts are easy to get through some are difficult, I can surely say I still have issues where I doubt myself sometimes without even realizing it. However, I would say surrounding yourself with people who believe in you is of great help, I do have people that will always tell me I’m capable and those should be people who are believable and you know they know what they would be talking about.
AJ: What makes your company stand out from all other businesses in your niche?
TM: With our software division we’re working on solution that are serious pain points to our clients, I’m privileged at the stage where I’m that I can be able to call the board chairman or CEO of a big conglomerate and fly my ideas with them to hear what they think and it’s really helpful. With our training facility it’s really the passion and the vision that we have, everyone else has tried it and closed shop, we keep going due to the vision which we have to build a Smartphone brand across Africa and also just to help our young people find something they can call a job.
AJ: What are your values and ideals?
TM: I value a great legacy, most of the work I’m doing and that I will be doing is driven by the desire to create something meaningful and helpful to many people beyond those that are close to me.
AJ: Considering that you are a young entrepreneur, how have you been claiming your table in the entrepreneurial circles?
TM: It’s never easy, no one is going to give up even a small market share for you so you have to push to the limits. I have had to innovate and become flexible and agile where the competition is stiff and slow. Also niching down is important so you don’t go against Goliath head on, give them a surprise when in a few years you own 100% of a certain category they thought was nothing.
AJ: Since you are in the technological industry please tell us your top 3 mobile applications that hep you stay organised and on top of your game?
TM: Believe it or not I don’t like to use complicated tech at all, the simpler the better for me. The notes app on my OnePlus phone, google calendar and WhatsApp do the job for me. Those are the top three apps I use to get things done on any day.
AJ: What do you enjoy most about entrepreneurship? What do you find hardest about it?
TM: Personally, I enjoy the competition, the adrenaline rush of coming up with a brilliant idea and implement it successfully l, getting a nod from the market and of course when the money is in the bank. Those are the things that give you excitement as an entrepreneur and makes me want to do it everyday. The hardest part is when you come up with ideas you think are great and you put in the hard work and the market simply tells you no. That’s really heartbreaking and that’s what makes a lot of people think of quitting.
AJ: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
TM: In the next five years we will be running the Ixar smartphone brand in a number of African countries and our software services business will be a multi-million dollar enterprise.
AJ: There is always stress that comes with responsibility, how have you been dealing with that?
TM: Stress is surely part of the game, everyone must find a way of handling it or avoiding it at all cost. I have a had serious episodes of stress and you can’t get anything done under that kind of stress. I have stopped caring much about money which really was a huge reason for my stress, so I don’t spend much money on things anymore, I live with basics no matter how much I have. Maybe that’s why you hear of billionaire without houses or cars, the desire for material possessions can really be taxing mentally. I also have changed my diet, I do intermittent fasting, I rarely consume sugar and my diet is mostly made up of meat and vegetables. That has helped my energy levels exponentially and believe that helps you stay sharp and not get stressed by many things.
AJ: Kindly share with us your milestones.
TM: To date we have trained over 1000 technicians in Zimbabwe and Zambia and many of them are really doing very which makes are very proud. We have also developed software products for companies I have never dreamt it would be possible and that gives myself and my team a great sense of pride.
AJ: How do you boost productivity without causing burnout?
TM: At the stage where I’m, I don’t worry about burnout, I believe I’m still very far away from it. I know people who have 8 to 10 companies in different industries who work until 3 am and haven’t burnt out. So, I don’t concern about burnout yet, I work every chance I get everyday I am looking at how to increase my productivity.
AJ: Your role models
TM: Of course, Strive Masiyiwa stands out, his story literally inspired me to become an entrepreneur. The other one is a man called Duan Yongping who’s the founder of BBK Group, of course there are many others, locally and internationally.
AJ: Word of advice to aspiring and starting up entrepreneurs.
TM: Entrepreneurship is not easy but it’s an exciting journey if it’s part if your DNA, you need to give it all you have, come up with brilliant ideas and put in massive work and the results will be exciting for sure.