For Nyasha Munodawafa going into business was not by choice, his first love was to work on transforming companies probably those struggling or looking for a turnaround strategy.
But after graduating from the University of Kwazulu Natal, opportunities that supported a career path in advisory or business management didn’t materialise.
“The next best opportunity, although it wasn’t easy or quick to arrive at a decision, was starting a manufacturing enterprise,” said Munodawafa who has since ventured into manufacturing bags that cater for the luggage needs of school goers.
The bags are named “Professor School Bags,” with Munodawafa saying the brand name seeds the idea of academia in the mind of the user even from a young age.
“It is a brand name that covers the range of bags Smaragdine Investments (the name of his Company) will make for ECD to Post-Graduate studies students.
There are also Cherry Tote Bags that are colourful and cater to the luggage needs of women and men.
The choice to venture into this kind of business was, however, not entirely off the mark for Munodawafa who says he has always been keen to organise capital and labour.
“I enjoy giving structure to problems that arise in business, especially with start-up companies. I read broadly and find immense pleasure in using the nuggets of gold I discover in books in effectively solving problems.”
How the love to organise capital and labour began.
“In primary school, I was introduced to marbles. My mother and father hesitantly invested in two packets of marbles thinking I would swallow them. If I remember well, they were cat eyes and galaxy.
“In my first week of playing marbles, I returned with close to 10 packets of various premium marbles. The next week I was lending other student marbles,” said Munodawafa.
He recalls how it all went down, albeit using modern financial language.
“At that time this lending behaviour did come with its draw backs as I had preliminary debt collection, portfolio management and risk management skills.
“Looking back at that marbles experience, I still enjoy the euphoria of putting together something and having the world respond to the invitation to come and interact with my creation. I enjoy that feeling. That’s why I will always be in business.”
How is business?
In his judgement , Munodawafa believes Smaragdine Investments is doing well.
“We are still pressing forward with our strategy. We started off in high-spirits and have tried our best to maintain focus and high hopes even during the most challenging times in business.
“We are small and getting on our feet. The market has responded positively to our products and we look forward to increasing our range and quality,” he says.
“Zimbabwe is a big enough market for us and we will continue to work towards getting our products to our customer. The internet has helped lower the barriers to getting our products to market and it will continue to be a channel we utilise.”
It has not been smooth sailing though with Munodawafa making mistakes along the way.
“We had some stakeholder challenges for a whole month this year. Production stopped. I erred on my part by not making an explicit agreement that we could reference.”
This decision troubled him but it also came with its own lessons.
“Always have agreements in writing and don’t rush new business relationship.”
In business, one should always strive to manage relationships.
“New relationships need to be developed and actively managed, given the size of our enterprise. Failure is always around the corner and ready to pounce, be ready to respond to it,” Munodawafa advises.
This is a lesson that he also carries in his endeavour to make Smaragdine Investments a successful story.
This, however, does not mean the end of challenges start-ups encounter in business. Getting into retail outlets has not been easy.
“We are in a few outlets in high-density residential areas in Harare, but they haven’t performed as well as we had expected.
Selling direct to the market has proven to be a more favourable approach.
“The internet has also helped lower the barriers to getting our products to market and it will continue to be a channel we utilise.”
He, however, said by 2019, Smaragdine Investments hope to have an established position with selected outlets that get our products to customers.
Munodawafa believes if there is anywhere his venture will succeed as a company, it will be here in Zimbabwe.
He says the problems we have in this country are formed and can be solved by humans.
“Regardless of the circumstances we may find ourselves in. Corruption, poor liquidity, poor service delivery, weak governance, these are our problems! And we need to solve them.
“It may be disappointing and disheartening, but this is my home. Read the laws of this country, vote wisely in the harmonised elections, know how your government works and let’s get working on the Zimbabwe we deserve.
For his business, Munodawafa says “Smaragdine Investments is committed to making the bags that Zimbabwe needs for its future.”
“As elections approach, we are maintaining a positive outlook. Before and after the elections the market will still need our bags. How we go about securing our resources may change but we are ready to adjust to the prevailing business environment we will encounter.”