For Faith Katsaura-Mawande, business has become her way of life. Each day starts with the challenge of how to sustain her two enterprises or how to make them better.
Winner of the Women in Enterprise Awards in the SME category in 2013, Katsaura-Mawande is the founder and owner of Zuva Printers, a local printing company. She also co-founded Paddock Gears, an engineering company. How she manages to keep the two companies afloat in this time of economic hardship she says she owes to the entrepreneur in her.
“To be honest I prefer being called an entrepreneur rather than business woman,” Katsaura-Mawande pointed out as soon as we began the interview.
She said the latter always made it seem like she was doing something less valuable than what any man running a similar business was doing. She argues that female entrepreneurs are still being treated like they run female-businesses which are considered less profitable or not as good as those run by men. To her, business people or entrepreneurs are the same regardless of sex.
“I am an entrepreneur because like any other entrepreneur, I see opportunities where others don’t,” said Mawande.
Her journey has not been all rosy and she admits that becoming an entrepreneur was a challenging role she decided to take on. After starting off in marketing at a printing company, she later on pursued her dream to start her own company. Having entered the printing business as a trainee at the age of 19, Katsaura-Mawande can boast of 20 years of experience in the industry.
Katsaura-Mawande started off at Paddock Gears in 2007. She decided to partner with an engineer to guide her through the technical aspects since she did not know much about engineering herself. The company started out manufacturing industrial gears. As the mining industry was experiencing growth at that time, she took advantage of this and ventured into manufacturing spare parts for mining machinery.
“Paddock came through printing. I became passionate about engines just from observing some of our printing machines being repaired,” explained Mawande.
Her interest in printing re-emerged in 2012 when she founded Zuva Printers which was a big risk at that time as most printing companies were closing down due to liquidity constraints. Printing and designing banners, business cards and other promotional material needed for corporate branding were all irrelevant at that time for most companies as they were downsizing or closing down as a result of the economic meltdown.
Katsaura-Mawande had a humble start. Armed with just one printing machine and her persuasive skills, she encouraged the few available customers to do business with her. She says her appearance only made it more difficult – potential customers did not take her seriously as she is small in stature. But in the end, her marketing qualifications and experience helped her sail through.
When I interviewed her, she shared with me one of her secrets of success, “When you are building something, you need to downscale your standards from your looks, the car you drive and sometimes the food you eat.”
“I had to do that to invest in Zuva Printers and it is one of the reasons why I always push myself to ensure that the company grows even though some days I just feel like cringing in bed,” she added.
To date, Zuva Printers has a client base of over 50 customers including individuals and corporate companies.
Katsaura-Mawande’s enterprising skills were tried and tested during a workshop she attended in Malaysia organised by Angel Investors. She was part of a start-up competition with participants from 15 different countries. The competition required that participants come up with viable business plans and Katsaura-Mawande came first. Currently she is a nominee for the Panel Choice Award for this year’s edition of Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards (ZIWA).
Steps to success in Entrepreneurship
Throughout the interview, Katsaura-Mawande emphasised how she disapproves of the way women in business have been identified by their sex. She argues that the constant reference to gender inculcates certain limitations that make women think there are some no-go areas for women in business.
“How come no one ever asks men how they balance running successful businesses and fatherhood? I have lost count of the number of times I have had to respond to that question” she says.
To Katsaura-Mawande asking women how they balance being wives and being in business makes them think that they are doing something wrong by doing something outside their gender-prescribed roles.
“Women should be willing to take risks in order to prosper in business,” advised Katsaura-Mawande.
“If you fall, pick yourself up,” she added.
For one to be successful in business, procrastination is a big ‘don’t’ according to Katsaura-Mawande. From experience, she has learnt that fear to explore new ideas delays or deters success altogether. She attributes her success so far to hard work, discipline and what she refers to as the ‘X factor’.
“Every woman has an ‘X factor’ but we need someone to push us to take an extra step”, she explained.
To that she added that it is important to keep an encouraging and motivating network of friends that offers inspiration and support. She also attributes her success to both her teams at Zuva Printers and Paddock Gears.
“Besides my personal drive I also work with a great team that makes me look good and feel good to be who I am today.”
Both Paddock Gears and Zuva Printers are based in Harare but they offer services to customers countrywide.
All images from Faith Katsaura-Mawande