Chitungwiza woman’s business venture pays off

Many Zimbabweans feel cheated by the government 34 years after the country attained its independence, but others have been hardworking and innovative and have made the best out of their dire circumstances.

Evermore Maredza displaying some of her products that she makes and packages for tuckshops in Chitungwiza
Evermore Maredza displaying some of her products that she makes and packages for tuckshops in Chitungwiza

Evermore Maredza from Unit K, Seke in Chitungwiza is one of them. She is the brains behind Sellomac Investments, a company involved in packaging peanut butter, peanuts, dried fruits and sorghum meal.

Employing two others to assist in the processing, packaging and distribution of her products, Maredza said she had failed to penetrate the market and supply her goods in established retail shops for the past six years.

Clueless

“I have been trying to get the barcode that is needed for one to be able to put their products in established retail shops such as Food World, OK and TM. The process is very difficult and expensive for me,” she said.

Without the necessary knowledge on how to process the required barcode, Maredza said she decided to start by supplying her local community. “Locally, most of the shops and tuck shops sell their stuff manually and there is no need for a barcode. People would come to my house and buy peanut butter and it was time for me to take my product to the people,” said Maredza.

She described how the initiative enabled her to shove poverty out of her house. “I was able to put food on the table and pay for my children’s education. But I always feel that this is not enough,” she said.

Defying all odds, she endured the challenges of marketing her unknown product and started approaching the local shops and tuck-shops in Chitungwiza.

Vision

“There had to be an entry point and I was determined because I always told myself that where there is a will, there is a way,” she said. Fortunately for Maredza, the Chitungwiza community embraced her product and she started supplying the tuck-shops with peanut butter at a wholesale price, supplying over 2, 00 bottles monthly.

Labelled Sellomac Investment, the brand is now recognised throughout the community.

Maredza attributed the beginning of the venture to the challenges of raising five children on her own. “I started by saving up to buy a peanut butter making machine years ago, when Zimbabwe was still using its local currency. I saved up $350 and bought the machine, which I am still using,” said Maredza.

“It was a vision founded by the harsh circumstances of the day. There was no time to complain because no-one was listening. You should understand that this was in 2008.” Maredza said it has not been an easy road, but she was optimistic of striking it big one day. “I am looking forward to the day when I will have a plant because for now, I am still operating from my backyard. I am not yet at that stage where I can afford to rent a bigger place because I do not have a lot of equipment. If only I could penetrate the local market, I am sure that I have the potential to grow big,” she said.

Accountability

Maredza said she makes a profit of over $300 monthly after paying salaries to her workers and purchasing stock to constantly supply her customers.

“I always make sure that every cent is accounted for so that I stay viable. The business is still in its infancy, so I don’t want to disappoint my customers,” she said. According to the Commonwealth Business Women’s Network, women in business make up almost 50 percent of all new businesses in some Commonwealth countries – despite the fact that they face significant challenges in terms of their sex and gender roles, their ability to run businesses and to raise capital.

“One of the common threads is the need for women to achieve greater recognition in terms of their economic contributions and their unequal access to financial services, which men in business often take for granted,” says the report. In developed economies, considerable support and funding was invested in women through agencies that represent small and medium scale enterprise.

The Commonwealth Business Council reported that in many developing countries, women have harnessed their collective wisdom and power through well-organised associations and built workable and mutually beneficial relationships with some banks.

Disadvantages

“Despite these efforts, they are still reported as experiencing disadvantages when seeking business capital. These often result from misconceptions of women as being a greater risk than men,” said the council.

In Zimbabwe, the majority of women remain marginalised and disempowered, according to a report by the Labour and Economic Development Institute.

“Women’s businesses are concentrated in the informal sector and in services sectors which include hairdressing salons, hotels and restaurants,” read the report. “They have a lot of businesses in the retail sector, manufacturing which are usually backyard production units, agriculture and cross boarder trading.”

The study noted that it is unfortunate that women’s business initiatives were affected by gender barriers, which prevented them from accessing the socio economic resources such as credit, skills training, markets and information to enable them to grow their micro and small businesses.

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