Looking at that time in retrospect I attribute our survival and growth to the decision to involve everyone in tackling the challenges that the company was facing.
What is the biggest mistake an entrepreneur can make when starting a business?
There are three big mistakes in my opinion. One is failing to learn the job adequately. Second one is not having a strategic vision and thirdly, lacking financial discipline to distinguish personal funds from business funds thus stifling the business from growing.
What does the Zimbabwean economic climate look like today? Is it a good time to start a business in Zimbabwe?
There are a lot of opportunities in Zimbabwe. In fact there are more opportunities now than ten years ago. During the last ten years the economy shrank considerably and there is a sort of a vacuum now. There are very few formal jobs so a big chunk of the population is making a living through various enterprises.
It’s like everyone is an entrepreneur now because all the workers who were laid off are using their skills to start small businesses that sustain their families. Most of the money in Zimbabwe now is in this informal sector were things like furniture, basic foodstuffs, clothes and other services are found on the streets and home industries.
The way I see it people are starting small now in various ventures but in a few years a new breed of entrepreneurs will emerge. It certainly is a good time to start a business in Zimbabwe. In fact we have seen a lot of people coming to start businesses in Zimbabwe especially by people from the Asian countries.
Why do you think there are so few woman entrepreneurs in Africa? Do you think this is changing?
The African economy is actually driven by women at the micro level. Most of the African population lives in the rural areas and women are more active in economic activities there than men mainly for family survival.
However we have very few women entrepreneurs who break into big business, mostly due to cultural reasons. When growing up women are never primed to become leaders. Rather the stereotypical role is that a woman should become a good wife and mother therefore many women simply strive to fulfill this role. Even at school, boys are expected to perform better than girls and in the professional world women simply drift into certain professions that are regarded suitable for women.
So at the end of the day it’s our society that mostly militates against the development of women entrepreneurs. Motherhood is also a big factor that acts as a drawback. Most people do not realise that raising children is a full time job and those women who manage to raise children and advance in their professions at the same time are really strong.
The good thing in Zimbabwe is that we have a very good education system so the new generations of parents are more enlightened about issues affecting the girl child and are raising them differently. This will afford space for women in the future.
Any advice to budding women entrepreneurs?
Women entrepreneurs have to work twice as hard to succeed. They should expect certain difficulties to crop up merely due to the fact that they are women. In such situations the best thing to do is to remain resolute, focused, ethical and preserve your integrity.
It is also very important to network and get to know people – the right people with the potential to help your business either as customers, suppliers or associates.
Keep a sober head and remain focused. Do not rush to conclude that you have made it. Always expand your dreams and reinvest your money into the business. Avoid the trap of leading a luxurious life at the expense of the business.