Young designer dreams big

African designers should be groomed and trained in an environment that allows them to develop and grow as artistic individuals, says ambitious young designed Sharon Rateiwa. SOFIA MAPURANGA reports.

Sharon Rateiwa
Sharon Rateiwa

“African designers have a tough time ahead of them in ensuring that their designs are well received and recognised for the value they deserve on the African continent,” says upcoming young entrepreneur, Sharon Rateiwa.

A Bachelor of Arts graduate from Monash University in South Africa, Rateiwa has a vision to be the first female entrepreneur to own a design school in Zimbabwe. She believes that designers can expand the African market by creating more stock and distributing their products to wider markets on the continent.

“There should be structures that allow African designers to be groomed and trained in an environment that allows them to develop and grow as artistic individuals,” said Rateiwa. “African designers need to convince the local market that their products have artistic credibility and are quality controlled.”

She said the major obstacle for most designers was lack of financial capital. “Starting at family level, anything that involves art or design is not supported financially,” said the upcoming businesswoman, who is also a poet and actress. “There is no way that someone who wants to start a business that involves designing can receive funding from banks, which makes it very difficult for designers to break through.”

Rateiwa, who ventured into designing three years ago, was one of the female entrepreneurs who showcased her products at the Young Women in Business expo held in Harare recently. A designer of jewellery and clothing, the young woman said the fair provided an opportunity to showcase her talent at very minimal cost.

“The challenge that we have in Zimbabwe is lack of pride in our home-grown products. If there was an international designer at this fair, the expo would have been over-subscribed,” she maintained, adding that until Zimbabweans appreciated local designs the way that they valued international products, local designs would continue fetching low prices. “There is need for Zimbabwean designers to prove to the local market that there is value in locally crafted products,” said Rateiwa.

Describing the motivation behind her participation at the fair, she said the expo provided an opportunity for her to network with other young women in business and gain ideas of how to make her products visible not only locally but regionally and internationally.

“For me, designing is a part of me. I have always loved the skill of exploring and seeing my creativity transformed into something tangible,” explained Rateiwa. Venturing into designing jewellery has been a roller coaster ride for the young entrepreneur. “I get much of my material locally, but some I source from neighboring South Africa. My brand name is Humba which refers to my totem pig. Unfortunately, at this point in time, I cannot afford to rent a shop to market my products in the central business district where rental costs are very high.”

.Rateiwa is a nature lover who enjoys many outdoor activities, particularly mountain climbing. Her African role-model is local businessman Strive Masiyiwa, whose success story has inspired her. “My international role model is Marie Forlio whose drive and purpose has allowed me to see the value in my own dream,” she said.

She envisions a Zimbabwe where young women are accorded the necessary support to enable them to fully realise their potential. She advises young women aspiring to venture into any business to forge ahead whatever their situation. “Just be who you are because there is no-one else who sees things the way you do,” she says. “We are diverse, hence everything we do is unique in its own right. Fingerprints are not just skin deep, they are an artistic signature which should be recognized and given the accolades that it deserves.”

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