The MBA-Worthy Businessmen of Zimbabwe

I moved to South Africa from Zimbabwe two weeks ago for the second placement of my fellowship. As part of my work for expanding Kiva’s partnerships within South Africa, I have been meeting with lots of interesting organizations with very innovative business models. Whenever I mention that I worked in Zimbabwe before arriving to South Africa, they cannot stop talking about the entrepreneurial spirit of the Zimbabweans and how hard working individuals they are. 
They are so right. I can attest, first hand, to this fact. When I browse through pages of scribbles and infinite photos from borrower visits all over Zimbabwe I cannot help but be inspired by these individuals, admire their hard work, grit, drive and joie-de-vivre, and feel privileged to have had the chance to meet such special people during my fellowship. I wanted to share a few of them with you.

Solomon is a brick moulder in Chipinge, a rural town of Zimbabwe. When I visited him, he was having a slow season; clients tend to buy farm bricks during the dry seasons. But he said, the $750 loan he received from Kiva will improve his capital base and help him win over the competition. Without even asking him, he told me about his ambitions, listing his plans for his business. He wants to expand his product set to making, flower pots, and window sills, employ more people so he can double the amount of bricks he makes every day (currently at 200 – 500 / day), and become the biggest player in the market in Chipinge.

Solomon, standing proud of his business

Solomon was also an amazing poser!

Jabulani is the car-washing king of Chipinge. He was the first-comer to this business in Chipinge and has been a relentless businessman for 14 years. He says it is about dedication. There have been other car washers pop up every now and then, but they could not handle the challenges of the business. Jabulani has 6 employees, and a very busy business. We were constantly interrupted with new customers. With 14 years under his belt, he is not in cruising mode. He is constantly expanding his business. He even helped his wife get through school and become an accountant. With his new Kiva loan, he will build concrete for a larger car washing space and buy more supplies.

Here is Jabulani, infront of the car of his client from Mozambique!

Ronnie has a retail stand in downtown Chipinge. And he is an incredibly talented salesman. He works in a big market with many other similar retails stands. When I ask how he distinguishes himself, he says the most important things in this business are client relationships and product diversification. He wants to be able attract every customer with his product set. The Kiva loan has helped him buy different products and boost his business. His biggest piece of advice was, "Provide, what you client wants. If I need to go to South Africa to get a product for my customer, I would do it!” 

Here is Ronnie, holding one of his products

Solomon, Jabulani, and Ronnie are not the only ones. I just wish I could share all of them with you here.  They are everywhere on the streets of Zimbabwe: maybe selling baked goods, instead of air time, or carving a different type of figure in stone sculptures amongst tens of stone sculpture artists, or staying four hours longer at the office to study for an executive MBA program. I think we all have something to learn from them.

About the author

Ayse Sabuncu

Ayse [eye-shé] is from Turkey and grew up in the idiosyncratic city of Istanbul. Eager to take on the world at 18, her interest in technology led her to study Computer Science and Business at Johns Hopkins University. She then worked in corporate banking in New York for 5 years. In an effort to balance work and pleasure, and with a passion for extreme sports, she went on many adventures, including summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. As a part of this trip, Ayse fundraised for young adult educational initiatives in Turkey, which is a cause dear to her heart. It was after this trip she decided to dedicate her professional life to social impact. She later volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Mozambique, conducted research in India on organic farming and farmer livelihoods, and traveled to South Africa and Namibia to continue her exploration of the African continent. Ayse is currently getting her MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business. She is a big believer in the power of markets and innovation in tackling problems of poverty, and that every individual can create social change. When she first heard about Kiva through Jessica Jackley’s TED talk, she made it a goal to contribute to Kiva’s efforts. Ayse will be serving in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Johannesburg. In her free time she loves thrilling adventures, photography, traveling and has recently became a novice climber.