In her rural village in Dora Dombo, Ratidzo Mutepfa did what every other young woman in her village did: marry, have children, and work every day to feed them.
To help her family, Mutepfa, 30, used a foot-powered sewing machine to make simple shirts and skirts that she sold to others in her village. However, in 2010, she heard that a group of local women were joining a microfinance scheme offered by Micro King Finance in Mutare.
She joined the group and received her first loan, the equivalent of $200. With it she bought a small electric sewing machine and a generator. She started working faster and earning greater profits as a result of the improved quality and quantity of the clothes she made. Three years and six loans later, Mutepfa now has three machines and employs three apprentices.
Inspired by her example, two of the apprentices have already established their own small businesses.
“This loan scheme has been like a miracle to me. I cannot believe that I am now able to fend for myself. I am happy with what l have achieved so far,” Mutefpa told The Zimbabwean recently.
She has opened more sewing branches in Mutare and Rusape using loans from the microfinance scheme and profits she is realising from the sales of her products – for which she now has contracts with churches, schools, crèches and individuals.
“I make uniforms for schools and churches. I also have individuals who are after my services. I am looking forward to expanding and engaging as many women as possible,” she said.
Reflecting on the sisterhood that has formed in her community, she said: “I have helped other young girls in my community. I am happy that they have started their own things. What is even more important is that the women in the community help and support each other. I am happy that they have become good dressmakers and I am really encouraged about that.”
Mutepfa added that they helped each other even though they were in the same business.
Tecla Mahaka, 28, who now owns her sewing business and was trained by Mutepfa, said her life too has been transformed.
“I want to thank her (Mutepfa) for moulding me to become what I am today. I have a small business in my area and as of now I am happy with what I am getting,” she said. Mahaka now has two electric sewing machines.
“As you can see I am having a lot of orders. I have since recruited a dressmaker so that we can cope with the high demand,” she said, adding that her area of specialty was tie and dye and African wear.
“I want to encourage women out there to grab such opportunities that we are being given by these micro finance houses to empower ourselves,” Mahaka said.
Chipo Manase, 25, who also came through Mutepfa’s hands, has opened her sewing shop in Mutare.
“It has been a great achievement for me. I am happy to be in this business and I hope that I will expand further. At first I had doubts whether I would make it, but, I was inspired and encouraged by the support that I received from Mai Mutepfa,” she said.
Manase said she was grateful that her life has been transformed because of the support from Micro King Finance.
Pamela Muswe, the organisation’s loans officer, said through the provision of loans they were delivering self-help solutions to over 20 women and their families around Mutare.
Established in October 2001, Micro King’s mission was to provide financial services to the informal sector in a commercially viable manner.
Long term vision
“This initiative was launched with technical assistance from Vulindlela, our partner based in South Africa. The location of Micro King branches in the midst of and near micro enterprise clusters signifies the seriousness with which we need to support the informal sector,” she said.
She added that the long-term vision of the group was demonstrated by its investment in proper branch structures in the heart of high density areas.
Micro King has eight branches, three in Harare and one each in Chitungwiza, Gweru, Bulawayo, Mutare, and Masvingo.
“This investment symbolises both the human face of our organisation and the realisation that it is time the financial services sector acknowledged the existence of the informal sector and the vital role that this sector plays in an economy where the corporate sector is fast shrinking due to prevailing unfavourable macroeconomic conditions,” Muswe said.
She said the coming years would be characteried by consolidation of the gains achieved in the previous years with focus on processes and product refinement and brand-buildings as the oragnisation moved towards financial sustainability.
She said the company was moving around sharing and making presentations of successful microfinance stories, discussing how much microcredit can do for people who have traditionally been denied access to formal financial institutions.
Micro King Mutare
Tel: +263 20 67151
5c Avenue, Bordville Building
MutarePost published in: Business