By Caroline Chiimba
THE year 2004 saw a young mother crossing oceans with her son in search of greener pastures and landing in the United Kigndom where she did odd jobs like working in a warehouse and cleaning toilets to survive.
As if her fight for survival was not enough, Codilia Gapare was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was away from home and close family. This major dilemma was the turning point in Codilia’s life, ringing true to the old saying that ‘every dark cloud has a silver lining.’
“My entrepreneurial journey started by chance in 2014 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was during my treatment that I realised that there were no false lash options for people going through cancer treatment, who had lost their lashes,” Codilia told The Entrepreneurial Magazine.
“I came up with C-Lash out of frustration of being unable to wear false lashes at a time when I actually needed them. I then discovered that there were other people facing the same problem so I decided to take C-Lash to market.
“With little knowledge of the beauty industry or even how to run a business, I spend most of my days doing research on Google and talking to other patients and nurses. I then made a rough prototype and started looking at ways to get funding for my idea. With no business background or industry knowledge, I was unsuccessful in getting funding. I had to do most of the initial set up myself to keep costs down (bootstrapping).”
Codilia created the first false lashes for chemotherapy patients which are being sold in Europe and in Zimbabwe. She created a prototype called “C-Lash”, standing for “compassion” and “confidence”. The C-Lash is the first of several beauty products specifically made for people living with cancer.
“The biggest challenge that I faced while starting my business was lack of support from financial institutions because I had no business or beauty background,” she highlighted.
She went on to enter several competitions, including Richard Branson’s Pitch to Rich. Her breakthrough came when she approached a company called Boots in 2018 which liked her pitch and linked her with Eylure.
“And even when I was offered a contract with Boots, UK’s biggest high street retailer I had no money to supply my lashes,” Codilia told the Entrepreneurial Magazine
“It was Boots who helped me by introducing me to PDC Brands (Eylure) who agreed to collaborate with me. My company Nakawo Ltd T/A C-Lash was formed in 2015 and it partnered with PDC Brands (Eylure) in 2016 in order to bring C-Lash to market. We then lunched C-Lash exclusively in Boots in 2019.
“The support for C-Lash so far has been phenomenal in the UK. I am already working on plans to both expand my business and invest back home. C-Lash is still an incredibly young company, so it was necessary to build a strong brand before launching in Zimbabwe. Having spent most of my working life in the diaspora I think it is necessary so sit at the feet of those already doing business back home in order to learn from them.
“I think sometimes the mistake that we make when coming from the diaspora is assuming that we know more than those already operating in Zimbabwe. So I know I still have a lot to learn before I launch C-Lash in Zimbabwe.”
Codilia’s entrepreneurial journey in the diaspora hasn’t been a bed of roses. She faced her share of challenges. She shared with the magazine that she struggled at first to get acceptance as a businesswoman in a foreign land.
“When I approached a bank to open a business account. they wouldn’t even let me. I also found out that if you are a female entrepreneur, your chances of getting funding are lower that your male counterpart. If you are a woman of color, your chances are even lower,” she added.
“What keeps me going is the reason I started the journey in the first place. I am passionate about making sure everyone who wants to look their best can do so.”
Despite all hurtles on her way, Codilia ’ s great innovation did not go without recognition as she collected several awards in the past few years. Some of the awards include Salter’s Den 2015 First Prize, London Rockstar 2015 Innovator of the Show Award, Enterprise Vision Awards 2016 Inspirational woman Award finalist, Prima High Street Heroes 2019 (C-Lash Naturals) Top 50 Beauty High-street Products, and the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards 2019 Innovator of the Year.
this article was first published in the August Issue of The Entrepreneurial Magazine, under the Headline, “Zimbabwean Entrepreneurs breaking the ceiling glass in the diaspora”