When she graduated from university with a BSc in Chemical Engineering, 31 year-old Rudo Mazhandu faced the reality of unemployment in Zimbabwe’s challenging job market. She tried to get work in the public sector as a secondary school teacher; but the pay was low and her skills were being underutilized. She left the job in less than a year. In December 2014, Rudo decided to start her own soap making business. Rudo registered her company which trades as Home and Beauty Solutions. “All of 2014 I didn’t have a record of what I was doing,” Rudo says. “For me I was doing business but in reality I wasn’t.”
Receiving training in entrepreneurship from Junior Achievement Zimbabwe (JAZ) in March 2016 was a turning point in Rudo’s business. She was trained on customer care, marketing, record keeping and adherence to operating regulations, which transformed the way she conducted her business. “I was operating in a very small room, the training opened avenues of operating with growth in mind. I moved from the small room and I am currently renting a much bigger warehouse for my business,” Rudo says. She has also mechanized her operation through procurement of an electric mixing bowler, an improvement from a previously manual drum mixing method.
“Zimbabweans use six million bars of soap each year,” Rudo explains. “Only one million bars are made locally. So there is a five million bar deficit, which is filled by imports.” Within this market, Rudo found her niche. She focuses on making soaps that lather in hard water, targeting primarily the very poor who use hard water. “Most of the soaps in the market don’t lather in hard water,” Rudo explains. “So they like my soap because it does.”
For this reason and others, Rudo’s business is growing. Receiving big orders at a time, coupled with improved marketing resulted in volumes of production increasing significantly. Her net income has grown from $800/month to between $1500- $2000/month. She employs up to seven casual workers regularly to fill orders.
Rudo’s story is the JA story. It is not terribly different from that of many young people today all over the African continent. It is a story of difficulty and of hope, of challenge and perseverance, of dreams and of achievement. It is a story that shows that is possible when young people set their minds to make their dreams possible, and what happens when they get the support they need.