Budding entrepreneur Kudzai Makaza says having a mentor helped her to decide on the right time to start her business and how to grow it.
Makaza (KM), the MD of Artisanal Foods, told Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the talk show In Conversation with Trevor that young entrepreneurs need guidance from people that have experience running businesses.
She spoke about how Ncube started mentoring her and the journey they have walked together. Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: You know, I have been watching you develop, we must put it out there that I have been working with you over the past two to three years.
Do you want to tell people how we got to work together?
KM: Yes, you posted a competition to win a book and your question was: “How do you see yourself fitting into the Zimbabwean economy and Zimbabwe in general as a youth?”
I wasn’t on Twitter then. So I just posted my response and my friends were the ones who told me that Trevor has posted you and that you won some Twitter competition.
Then I came here to AMH and we briefly spoke and I told you what I was doing.
You said keep in touch. I waited till I finished my exams and then I emailed you and asked if you would mentor me in starting a business primarily.
TN: To me it’s been a very rewarding journey, the beauty about mentoring somebody, which people don’t realise is you actually get mentored as you are mentoring somebody.
So you have given me quite a lot and you are a very tough person to deal with.
You are very determined and your mind is made up, you and I have fought a number of times, disagreed on a number of things, but watching your career, for me I said we need to have this conversation.
First of all, as far as you are concerned, how important is mentoring for you?
KM: I think you can’t do without mentoring, to be honest.
You need guidance. I remember when I emailed you, I wanted to get straight into it and say I want to start a business and then you said hang on, we need to get you some sort of experience because I was fresh out of the university and, of course, you helped me with assistance in getting a job after school.
I made sure to complete a year of formal employment and then that’s when I told you.
Looking back, I actually see that I was rushing, had I just got into business straight from school, without some of the mentorship that we did together, I would have faced more problems than I do because entrepreneurship is not romantic anyway.
l would have faced a lot more challenges without mentorship and because there is no support system for a lot of youths, you do need some sort of guidance and mentorship because at home they won’t smile at you that you want to start a business, that’s really unrealistic, so you then need someone who has a different perspective, who can walk you through that journey.
TN: When you came to me you were about 23 thereabout and now you are 25 and I was impressed, but the fact that you were so eager to want to get into business, just coming out of college.
What degree did you graduate in by the way?
KM: Bachelor of Technology Honours Degree in Food Processing Technology.
TN: Then you started to get itchy feet, you wanted to leave, you wanted to go and start your own stuff and then I said no you couldn’t do that, but you said no you wanted to do that.
Share the conversations that you and I had.
KM: So initially what you said was at least make sure you complete a full year.
We continued having conversations and then I told you I was ready and we discussed it until you came to my side and I convinced you that I was ready.
We divided a book into half and we decided to look at the pros and cons of staying and then doing this on my own and when I won you over that giving this more time than me stealing time from the organisation that I was working for means that I get to grow faster, I get to focus on launching the product and making it more reachable to more people.
That’s when you finally agreed and then I handed in my resignation letter.
TN: What was it that was driving you to say you didn’t want to work for anybody, you wanted to start your own business?
What were the factors that were convincing that conversation in mind?
KM: Remember, I was just coming from third year internship, well I just needed to make a mark.
So at times the idea is not very refined and you have to do research, but on this one I was now so sure that this has to go out there, that there are people looking for such a product.
TN: So let’s go to the big idea now, what was the idea?
The one that you started dealing with when you went to Harare Polytechnic with your friends and so forth, which suddenly got you into business.
Talk about the idea, when it started and how you have developed it, what’s the idea?
KM: The banana flour, so we are looking at an alternative to starch, how we can make that mark in the food industry and so because it’s not very easy to tell a company to change the formulation and start using our banana because it has this much starch.
Then realistically we are looking at how it’s used and looking at that the other markets are
The people who have celiac and are gluten intolerant and so this is gluten-free and this is a c-starch, looking at the health benefits of it and that angle selling it as a household flour.
And then we also thought that this could be made into porridge and instant porridge, which we are launching in the following months.
TN: So for the benefit of those at home, it’s called Green Banana flour with gluten-free and resistant starch, which is already in the market?
KM: Yes, it’s already in the market.
TN: So you are now working on porridge, so talk to us about it?
KM: So we are looking at the health benefits.
It’s quite a long list if you look at the back of the number of nutrients that the banana has in its green form and then because we do a lot of research especially around World Health Organisation and the food trends and flour.
I read a lot of reports from FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organisation) .
Then we are looking at the 47% stunted growth rate in Zimbabwe, it’s one of the worst in the region and the prime causes are that children from six months onwards don’t get good quality micronism which is your vitamins.
We can just blend banana because green banana is very starchy, if we could make porridge out of that, look at how we can convince mothers and parents to feed their child a more wholesome product.
From the flour you can make porridge, a number of people have been using it in that way, we do post recipes on our social media platforms.