Sweet smell of success

Women bear the brunt of the economic crisis brought on by massive job losses. The unprecedented closure of companies over the past decade has hit women hardest. CLAYTON MASEKESA reports.

Workers mixing ingredients.
Workers mixing ingredients.

Miriam Chidawanyika worked as a chemical mixer at Buffalo Soap Industries (Pty) Ltd for 15 years until she lost her job in 2008. Today, she has turned the tables on poverty through her herbal soap manufacturing enterprise and is proud that her business effort offers opportunities to the women who she employs. She also trains people in soap making for a token charge.

Chidawanyika produces Yebo herbal bath soap and liquid hand wash products. She supplies products at wholesale and retail prices to individuals, businesses, schools, colleges and supermarkets, among others.

“The idea to make herbal came to me because I had many years of experience in soap making. I also did a lot of research and attended local and international workshops in soap making,” says Chidawanyika.

“Herbal soap is good for the body. I initially only made soap for a few customers, but because of the beneficial effects of herbal soap, more people started buying my products and that is how the business grew.”

Additional training

“I increased my knowledge by reading, research and updating myself on soap making processes and received additional training on liquid soap production in South Africa,” she added.

She produces herbal soap because it is healthy and environmentally friendly and she has introduced various members of women’s clubs to the art of soap making.

“We use only organic techniques to produce our ingredients and at the same time we are helping to keep this beautiful environment free from dangerous chemicals and pesticides,” she said.

For personal reasons Chidawanyika did not want to divulge where she got her start-up capital, but she did advise that soap making can start with a very small capital.

Very lucrative

“The enterprise is showing a profit. It is a very lucrative business that needs robust marketing skills. None of the soap produced is unsold, the market is good. Yebo’s lavender scented soap is the most popular and in high demand,” she confirmed.

At the small factory in the Nyakamete Industrial area, Chidawanyika does the chemical mixing and eight other women have found employment. She is looking forward to employing more people when she expands the business at the end of this year.

“At the moment I am looking forward to employing more women. I am happy that the few that I do employ are now able to send their children to school,” she said.

Women are happy to work for Chidawanyika. “Since being employed here, I am able to look after my family well. Gone are the days when I failed to send my children to school. My life and that of my family has changed for the better,” says employee Fadzai Humba.

Loan facilities

According to Chidawanyika, accessing loan facilities for the business is the only area where she has not been successful.

“I have never been granted a loan from a bank. I have applied, but I was not successful. I do not know the reason for this. One would think that the industry would attract entrepreneurs. We have the potential to expand, but we do not have the money to do so,” she said.

She has great dreams of transforming lives and impoverished communities. “We are dedicated to producing unique and wonderful soap products using only top quality, natural, ethically harvested and organically grown ingredients. My major goal is to expand the business. I want to empower impoverished communities through small-scale development. I do not only want to provide jobs, I want to create a better future for our children,” she said.

“Through hard work and unshakeable faith, dreams become reality. Women need to play their part in the new generation of businesses. Empowerment will give pride and dignity to the most vulnerable. More women should decide what business they want to go into, then obtain the necessary knowledge and training to enhance their skills,” added a determined Chidawanyika.

Post published in: Gender Equality

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