Gaudencia Fundo has business all sewn up

Gaudencia Fundo’s leather business highlights the growing ingenuity and determination of Zimbabwe’s women as they conquer previously male-dominated sectors. PAMENUS TUSO found her hard at work.

Gaudencia Fundo busy at work in her leather workshop.
Gaudencia Fundo busy at work in her leather workshop.

Gaudencia Fundo, in partnership with her husband, Langton, runs a successful leather company in Bulawayo. Sun Rise Leather specialises in sandals, belts, wallets, handbags and leather couches.

A mother of three boys, Fundo was inspired by her father and brother, who have a wealth of experience in the leather industry.

“To me, leather runs in the family. My father used to work for the Bata shoe company in Gweru as a leather tanner. My brother, Cornelius, also runs his own leather company in the city,” said Fundo. “I have acquired most of the leather skills from my father and brother. They have helped me so much to be where I am now.”

Before starting her own company in 2007, Fundo worked for her brother’s business, Footwear and Rubber, where she gained a lot of experience in running and managing a company.

“After working for my brother’s company for almost seven years, I decided to wean myself away him and formed my own company with my husband. We initially started the project with four workers,” she said.

Apart from managing the company, Fundo is also actively involved in the leather-working.

“My approach to business is very different from others. I lead my workers in designing and producing quality products. The secret of this industry is to maintain a standard of class and quality, and also keep up with clients’ trends and needs,” she said.

Fundo however bemoaned the company’s inability to deal with exotic leather products due to exorbitant licence fees demanded by Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. The government agency charges a yearly licence fee of $800 for any individual or company that deals with wildlife leather.

“Our biggest handicap at the moment is that we are not licensed to deal with any other leather except that of livestock. Most of us are still growing and we cannot afford the licence fees being charged by national parks. We are losing a lot of business because some of our clients are very much interested in products made from exotic leather,” she said.

Fundo also bitterly complained about cheap and fake Chinese products, which she said were forcing people out of business.

“These cheap, but non-durable, products from China are affecting our business. Due to the current economic hardships, most people now view our premium quality leather products as a luxury. They would rather have the cheap Chinese products than our product,” she lamented.

Depending on the availability of raw materials, Fundo’s company makes around 25 pairs of sandals and 50 belts a day. A pair of sandals costs $10 and belts cost $5. Her major clients are retail shops and individual buyers.

She urged more women to venture into previously male-dominated trades, saying this was the only way women could free themselves from depending on men.

Post published in: News

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