I started my business in 1995 in Gweru after my husband‘s transfer to run a branch in Gweru so I lost my job in Harare.Gweru being a small town it was difficult for me to find a job. I had a domestic sewing machine so I decided to start sewing. I started with placemats, tea cosies, oven gloves etc out of printed fabric. I then went for an embroidery course then diversified into embroidery on plain white and cream fabric which made my products very unique because everyone in the home deco industry used prints.
My business became very popular and I could not cope on my own, so I trained my housemaid’s son who had just finished school to help with sewing and he was very quick to learn.At this stage, we needed to increase the number of sewing machines, employees to help with the growing business. I got finance from UDC limited to buy two industrial machines and one domestic over locker and employed 20 girls to help with crotchet work and embroidery in the making of African lace that go on table cloth.
I became so popular that I exhibited at all country fairs in the country, also exhibited at our local international trade fair. I had customers who could buy my wares for export, as I did not have the knowledge to export, they would take the products out themselves implying that I would get less value for my products. Out of my products I managed to buy two cars for cash and still able to run my business.
We came back to Harare as a family and business went down because of the economic crisis, I then downscaled production. Even though I did well in the business I did not have knowledge and skills on the following: structures, marketing strategy, costing, pricing and customer care. In addition to that I had no systems in place to be competitive on the Harare market which had many players and could not developa business plan for potential investors and for sourcing funds. The training component that sank into my heart was the one on planning because I believe lack of planning is a recipe for failure in a business.
I thank PROWEB and Branson Centre for selecting me to attend the Business Women’s Training Programme in Entrepreneurship skills held at Bronte Hotel on from the 20-24th of October 2014.The training equipped me with the following skills that I did not have to compete on the market: record keeping, pricing strategy development, understanding the customer, marketing strategy development, Understanding the key competitors, Goal setting, having a vision for one’s business, networking, business plan development and ultimately placing the customer at the centre of the business. I also lacked Accounting and Finance skills so the basics that I was taught helped me appreciate the basics of Accounting and Finance.
With the above training skills and knowledge imparted on me, my vision is to explore the regional and international markets and be highly competitive on the local market as well.
Charlotte Chigwedere, Patches Galore, Harare.