Our Top 10 inspired quotes from Zimbabwean women who inspire us

I continue to marvel at just how much giving my time and effort to this platform has transformed me.  GOD is truly at work through some amazing women in my life. I draw strength from the knowledge that there are so many women I can learn and grow from if I open myself to asking questions on how they encounter their successes.

In the coming weeks, we look forward to bringing to you more inspired testimonials, interviews, musings if you will – from Zimbabwean women that are mastering their own destinies and sharing their lives with others through their professions, works, talents and gifts. QF Features have been some of the most widely read elements of our blog, as readers are able to see themselves in the stories of other unique and tenacious women.

Today i’d like to share in one setting, some of the most beautiful words shared by women we have enjoyed sitting down with. I hope you enjoy these as we enjoyed sitting down and talking through their success stories…

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Check out their full interviews under the QF Features tab on our homepage. There’s plenty of wisdom there!

Quintessentially yours,

QF Yvonne

An ode to SAM

13 July 2016 – a day that will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans far and wide. Videos and text messages were flying across borders, time zones and social media platforms, as we awaited word on #ThisFlag’s Pastor Evan Mawarire. My  heart hung in my throat many a time; with shivers interrupting my silence from time to time, as I witnessed men and women, belt out songs of praise and worship to the Heavens, crying out to GOD that justice would be served.

By now we should all be up to speed with the current affairs of Zimbabwe. Even if you aren’t a keyboard activist of sorts or social media junky, messages and phone calls must have made their way to you one way or another. I was moved. Moved by Zimbabweans of all races and ages, gathered outside the aptly named “Rotten Row”, waiting for word on the proceedings within. To be honest, I’m still basking in the euphoria of happenings of that day. Passionate posts on the welfare of our country and wellbeing of friends and loved ones trucking on, through the state that is Zim, news headlines which have made their way to international networks and more – the people are alive and wanting a change for Zimbabwe. Even from this far away, a great number of us feel like we were there day in and day out.

My piece today, comes inspired by a picture I saw of Mrs. Mawarire, clad in a red blouse, awaiting word of her husband’s wellbeing. I’ve read several messages of thanks to her for being that mother that has selflessly given up her husband in this season. Those of us married know that it isn’t always easy to stand by the men we love. I am moved by what I imagine to be ethereal strength because Lord knows, I don’t know if I could do it. She stands with him, whom the world now knows as “The Flag Pastor”, watching him valiantly take on a passion that morphed from a few minutes of poetry-like spoken word, to a movement that is giving many in our generation hope of a better Zimbabwe.

I’ve tried to imagine what she had to tell her daughters when they didn’t see daddy after school the day before the trial. I imagined feelings of helplessness, anger, fear, anxiety, heightened stress – and so on – that she not only felt on that day – but today STILL. I can’t speak on how she felt then or what she feels right now, but I am enamored by the woman that is SAM. Sam today stands as a heroine to many of us who too carry the same desires for our nation, who too want a brighter Zimbabwe for our children and who – every single night, pray for their husband and his dreams.

As a wife, and a mother, my heart and sincere gratitude goes out to Samantha Mawarire today, for in her silence, she exudes strength. For those of us that are believers in the GOSPEL, it is easy to see that hers is a peace that can only come from her strength – GOD.

Only GOD can give a woman that much strength, and that much heart, to stay strong when the lives of her loved ones are now in the limelight for many a reason. Many have grown to know and love them through their work while ministering to the youth and young adults. Some of us have grown to love them since the first #ThisFlag video went viral.

Wherever you stand today, I ask that you continue to pray for abundant grace and protection for Sam Mawarire and her family. Her husband, who we are all cheering on from the sidelines, wishing that we too had as much courage as he has shown us in the weeks past – and her daughters, those precious souls who are wondering if daddy is okay – they all need our covering.

Thank you Sam for your endurance then, yesterday and today. Our hearts and prayers continue to make their way to the heavens. It shall be well.

Quintessentially Yours,

The Quintessential F Team

My testimony: GOD does equip us for everything.

I Peter 5:10

And after you have suffered a little while, the GOD of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

When I made the decision last year to step back from consultancy and head back into the corporate world, I was physically prepared for the adjustments that being a part of the labor force meant. Funny when you are a mom working from home you get the “so what is it that you do?” question at the PTA meetings, church gathering, coffee meets and such. One of the highlights of last year was that I was greatly encouraged by fellow QFs to step out and step into my new destiny. Really just following their stories and exploits had me challenged to stop making so many excuses.

I knew that in most recent years, indeed I had been planted, schooled, debriefed and equipped – whether I was willing to accept it or not. Living in 4 different countries in the space of 10 years, adopting new roles and adapting to a myriad of life changes will do that to you. Evolving relationships and transforming goals will at times have you second guessing yourself, and second guessing I did.

I second guessed my ability to get up and show up “for work” every single day. I was worried about how my babies would cope without mom being at every school event or them coming home to a nanny and not mom. It took me a long time to realise just how much I craved the whole “going to work” thing because again, when people see you with tonnes of flexi time they think you on a vacation 24/7. So when I took that first step to submitting my first application for jobs in the UAE, I was good and ready. I was done with being in Zim after a 12 month stint on a project and I needed a fresh outlook on life. Modern, empowering, motivating were my words to describe what I was looking for. I felt I was ready to offer my knowledge, experience and skillset to whomever would take me. Boy did I get the shock of my life!?

Two years ago I asked my dad what he thought I would be good at in the “next phase” of my life. He said “international relations or PR” and I thought really? I asked why and he said because it appealed to my personality and administratively he had watched me blossom as running point for a huge real estate project in Zim. I just thought I was getting up and “hustling” because well…I have dreams to one day be a real estate mogul on our beloved continent and that was a perfect opportunity to not only tap into my real estate expertise but actually run a project from scratch. Dad watched me navigate the bureaucracy and change tone and language to get what I needed done done. I value my father’s opinion because it comes unbiased. It can at times be painstakingly honest, but the man never lies and is a brilliant judge of character and nurturer of dreams. So I took his word for it and got to researching what it would take to join the world of PR – from a global perspective – as opposed to the more regional and localized projects I had been running.

I’m etching closer to my 1 year anniversary since joining the PR world as opposed to operating in the marcomms domain from which my career is deeply rooted. Based on my experiences in recent months, I like to consider us to be the Olivia Popes of this world. We make sure our clients are portrayed in the best image possible and fix things. It don’t matter what time of day it is – fix it and if you don’t know how – get someone who knows how. A collision of passion, creativity prowess, administrative capacity, strategy and critical thinking…24/7 save for when you are asleep or fixing your cup of coffee to get your next boost of caffeine – are how best I can experience my personal transition into PR. It’s everything I imagined but so much more.

I got to thinking about how GOD takes every experience we go through to prepare us for the next. I’m reminded of a time that I took to writing anything and everything I felt during my season in Zambia. I not only wrote a lot in that time, but in all honesty, it is then when I actually learned how to write using tones different from a more corporate voice. Sharing through written word prepared me for the countless types of pieces I write for a living today, with the spoken sharing having built my confidence in making presentations. I started out my career in retail, and 10 years later some of my clients are in the retail sector. My love for the tourism industry created many opportunities which I continue to leverage from today!

What I am getting at is: GOD IS IN THE BUSINESS OF STRATEGIC PLANNING. Anything you and I will ever go through either teaches us life skills that bolster our comprehensive capabilities, build up on attributes that shape our character or draw us closer to discovering our passion and purpose. Trust me when I say this, nothing we ever experience or learn, is in vein. Belief in GOD’s greater plan will help you and I to truly embrace every experience, however exhilarating or challenging it may be.

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So, if you need a reminder of our calculating GOD is, take a journey through your own life and see how people, places and experiences have been instrumental to where you are today! You’ll be happy to note that grace surrounds you, and experiences usher you into new levels of perception and appreciation if you allow them to.

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Yvonne

Starting a business: QF Edith’s tips for success

I find myself in a somewhat unenviable situation where I am UNEMPLOYED! A lot of Zimbabwean sisters can relate to this right now – being out of work in an instant. Most of us were in our comfort zones, holding on to the mistaken belief that our jobs were forever secure, having risen to dizzying heights and not seeing any obstacles.  So much life and energy to go on with the grind till we dropped. Now left with very few choices, a lot of us have decided to do the best we can with what we have. Some of us have resolved to start a business!

As I talk to my fellow would-be entrepreneurs I find that most businesses have not taken off due to – not having any capital. Women with amazing ideas and game changing products are holding back because there is no money to start their ventures. I used to be one of those women who felt that when I launched my product, I would launch it BIG! The impact of my product would be felt across the entire continent. But alas, to date I have started one thing after another and failed to see it through because I did not have enough money (or any money) to fulfil my big dream.

One day I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing lady called Fungai Ndemera who is running a successful business that she started from scratch. She reminded me that God has a purpose for me, whether I am employed or not, whether I am earning or not, whether I am running a successful business or not. The only thing I need to start fulfilling my dream is ME! After that encounter I set out to start where I was and using my experience and expertise I decided to launch my consultancy and training business.

Look, I am still struggling with a lot of issues, still building my brand, still learning new and valuable lessons. I have made some epic mistakes, I am far from perfect but here are some of the things I have learnt and which I feel could help a lot of my sisters in their up and coming businesses:

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  1. Money is nice but not key

I have met a few people who run businesses, have the starting capital, and even have a ready market yet still they fail. I have also seen people who have started with nothing but a dream and they have done very well. So! Is money all that then?

For me, the first and most important thing to have is a dream or a goal! Every business starts from a mere idea so take your ideas seriously. Write down what you envision, identify your strengths and weaknesses, have a map of how you are going to reach your goal. Pray, pray, pray for direction and wisdom in meeting your goal.

Lately a lot of innovative and determined individuals have invented amazing products that eventually earn a lot of money for them. I find that such people have accomplished so much because they were led by their vision. Not having money did not stop them, in fact for some it encouraged them to keep going. They realise and accept that the money will eventually come but first the product or service must be available…. and good.

  1. Create the right mindset

Having a great idea is not enough if your mind is filled with fear of failure, fear of competition and any other negative thoughts that may take over. While it is perfectly normal to be fearful and to acknowledge the threats to your idea or your dream, you need to develop a clear and positive path mentally.

As you start your business prepare yourself for various hindrances, distractions, naysayers. Be aware of your enemies and possible threats but keep your eyes on God and focus on the work you have been called to do.

Creating a positive mindset is not always easy but it is certainly essential in ensuring that you hold onto your vision. The people you work with or serve also need to feel the confidence radiating from you. Imagine someone selling a product to you but doubting the success of their own product. Only you can convince others to trust and believe in your product so make sure that your mind is properly aligned to your dream.

  1. Approach your concept and clients professionally

A lot of good ideas fail to take off because of bad attitudes, disrespect for clients, employees and service providers and lack of discipline. As a business grows, so does its reputation. It is therefore vital to ensure that the reputation is good from the very start. Being professional is not something that can be left to multi-million dollar businesses. In fact, small and growing businesses need it the most.  Remember that it is easier now to become an overnight global brand and in the same vein, becoming a global failure can happen in an instant.

No one likes to be kept waiting. Respect your client’s time and deliver products promptly. Give every client the very best of yourself whether they are a friend, relative or stranger. Send invoices and provide receipts when required. Return calls and respond professionally to emails.

Treat your concept with respect. Take care of your documents and company assets. Protect your intellectual property and regularize all company documents.

  1. Honesty, integrity and respect

In my profession I have met a lot of great minds, people with astounding problem solving skills but most of whom lack honesty, integrity, respect or all three. These people run businesses where people place a lot of confidence not only in their services but in their ability to protect confidential and often potentially harmful information. Clients are willing to pay a lot of money for these services and yet sometimes the confidence and trust is grossly betrayed. As business owners there is a moral and legal duty to protect your clients by being honest and giving them the product they paid for (and a little extra if possible). Lying to clients is a sure way of losing out on their patronage and can damage future prospects.

Sometimes the lies come by way of overpromising, claiming to have capacity to deliver what you cannot. It is vital to always communicate with clients where potential or real threats appear. Simply informing a client that something is wrong before the client comes ranting and raving is advisable.

Respecting clients is more than being polite and courteous, it also means taking their needs seriously, taking all reasonable measures to protect their private information as well as their reputation.

  1. Do not give up

Starting a business is very tough especially in an economy that is struggling and where the market is probably saturated with similar products or ideas. It is easy to be tempted to give up on a potentially great idea because of economic, bureaucratic and other hindrances.

Each time you feel like giving up remind yourself why you started your business and how much you have invested in it. Remember every dream comes with its challenges.

“Do not focus on your circumstances. Look at what’s in your heart.” – Joyce Meyer.

Do not give up!

  1. Take time out

It is essential to take time out to refresh and re-energise. I know that a lot of the time, in today’s world, we are encouraged to always be on point, to be on top of our game, to bring on the best at all times. While this is ideal, it can also be very damaging to the individual and the business. As human beings we have to accept that we have limits and we need to take a break from the hustle every now and again. As Christian women we should be led by our Maker’s example where He, in all His glory, took time to rest.

On the other hand, we cannot take time to rest when tasks are generally incomplete. You cannot rest before you’ve done the work. Funny as this bit of advice seems, I have come across a lot of young women who claim to “deserve” a break or a treat after barely lifting a finger. In order to be a successful business owner it is important to know when and how to strike the balance between hard work and well deserved rest.

As we try to navigate through the often challenging venture of starting (and maintaining) a business I invite you, dear sisters to share this verse with me, for from it I find focus and a vision;

“Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a disgrace…. And they said, Let us rise up and build! So they strengthened their hands for the good work.”

Nehemiah 2: 17-18.

Let us pick up the broken pieces of our lives and rise up to build our lives, our hopes, our dreams, our families, our communities, our homes, our nation, our businesses.

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Edith

10/10 With Motivational Speaker & CEO Avodah Consultants Nyaradzo Mavindidze

Indroducing Queenmaker, Motivational Speaker and Coach NYARADZO MAVINDIDZE

Quintessential F was in attendance at the Queenmakers launch event at Harare’s Meikles Hotel almost a year ago today. We thought to take you back to the woman entrepreneur behind this inspirational movement and tap into why she continues to challenge women to step out into becoming the best they can be. Here we hear from Nyaradzo Mavindidze…

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Nyaradzo, how do those that know you describe you and in your own words how do you describe yourself?

That’s a crazy question – stubborn tenacious (she chuckles); I hope they think I’m fun.

I think I’m tenacious, fun, and relentless. I don’t take no for an answer. If I want something there has to be a way for me to get it; whether there’s a detour or not, I have to get around it.

We had the great privilege of watching one of your training sessions online and were enamoured by your confidence and articulation on tools that empower women? At what point did you make the decision that you wanted to be a training vessel behind women empowerment?

Primarily I’m an organizational psychologist – I studied psychology. So I’m a speaker, trainer and coach. I guess I found myself in my space by just doing what I love, getting opportunities that came my way and when I was in those elements I realised that my personality really shone through. I love being behind a microphone and in front of a crowd. I love telling people what to do and how to do it. So for me training was the best way for me to bring forward transformation in people’s lives in a structured, orderly way. On the other hand, I am passionate about women empowerment and women growing beyond their barriers and finding themselves as they aim to live out their purpose. As a business person I focus on training, speaking and coaching particularly for corporates.

So effectively your company Avodah Consultants came into being on account of your passion for motivational speaking and training. How are you finding the levels of receptivity particularly when you enter male dominated environments or areas where there is limited training, yet mostly men are on the ground?

I like hanging with the boys. Some may say I’m one of the boys so I’m very comfortable in male dominated environments because I’m self-assured of my goals and my objectives. I think once they realise my value they respect me. One of the challenges though has been that they look at me and think I’m 10 years younger than I am. But when I open my mouth and start speaking they sit back and come to appreciate what I have to say. So my work speaks for itself…and I enjoy being in that space. I’ve grown and I’ve been stretched.

Generally I’m thriving however I have had one or two instances where I have encountered corporate leaders who have looked at me and written me off as young and inexperienced so they didn’t give me a chance. In another instance it took them a while to make up their mind and when they did give me a chance, they were intrigued by my presentation of the work that I do. So I’m finding that the overall experience as I grow is really quite interesting.

How do you feel a Godly existence ties into your personal growth? You find in some instances people are in church doing the church and full on Christian thing, yet their ethos in business is in contrast with some of the values upheld by the Christian faith. Do you believe someone can be “self-made” as opposed to “God-made” in the realms of success and prosperity?

I’ll answer that in two parts. The first part is that I see my work as a mantle and a ministry. I am a marketplace minister. Avodah actually means “work and worship”. Work is a form of worship. So when you are doing your work; whatever it is that you are doing – whether you are a cleaner, a teacher or a doctor – you are using the gift that GOD has given you to worship HIM. You know the story about the talents where the one guy hid them and didn’t use them while the other guy used them and multiplied them. When you are using the gifts that GOD has given you, you are actually worshipping HIM.

So when I approach my work, it’s a ministry. When I go into a training session whether it’s for Time Management or Emotional Intelligence or Customer Service, as I am getting in there and preparing – I Pray. I believe GOD knows the needs that my audience has so I ask that He minister to their spirit, soul and body through my work. I ask GOD if I can be used of HIM as a vessel to touch my audience spirit, soul and body. My training is therefore not just information dissemination. Because I’m a psychologist, I understand that there is a lot of behavioural changes and cognitive reconditioning that goes on within my audience. I believe the Spirit of GOD in me touches people deeper than just my power point presentations or whatever I say. So sometimes you find my training will take a different dimension because I’ve seen a need that’s not necessarily about customer service for example, but is about confidence and self-esteem, or maybe about personal healing and depression. So I automatically go into that area, deal with that situation and then go back to the power point. My training is therefore in some ways unconventional.

On the whole thing about cut throat business dealings and merging spirituality and business – we have to be very careful with that belief that Christians have to be “soft and nice” or not raise their voices when there is a need to do so. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you have to play nice all the time. Business is actually not “nice”. Business is like a war. When you go to work (or to war) – you go with your weapons. The boardroom is your battlefield. So if you are going to sit back and play nice – it therefore depends on your definition of nice. You have to stand up for what you believe, you have to push the boundaries, and you have to be as shrewd as a serpent and as gentle as a dove. It’s the values that you have that will then underpin everything that you do.

One of my values is fairness – am I being fair? I will not shy away from opportunities that I think I should go after because someone will see me and perceive that because I am a Christian perhaps I should steer clear of pursuing that opportunity. If I go into a place and get bad customer service I will raise my voice over the issue. Yes, I am a Christian but you know what, I deserve good customer service. If you treat me badly I will take you up on it – even if I am a Christian. I will demand what is due to me according to the contract of engagement or terms of agreement. I’m a Christian but business is business. The values of Christianity are what we ought to use in our dealings – that is fairness, integrity, love. I can still love you but also draw the line when there is a degree of potentially taking each other for granted. There has to be a balance.

So then what is your take on pursuing opportunities in Zimbabwe or the world over for that matter?

As a people we seem to think that business is a monopoly. If you open a grocery store, and I see that it is a viable venture, I can also open a grocery store – right next to your grocery store – and I am not copying you. It will just be a case of perhaps 2 Christians running the same type of business – next to each other. But you will find people saying “Oh but she’s a Christian. How can she start the same business next to brother or sister such and such?” This is business. If I also see the opportunity I should also be able to open the same type of business. I say “kudos to you because your success has actually motivated me to pursue the same level of success.”

Do share with us a day in the life of Nyaradzo Mavindidze?

My days are different. On a normal day without training, I might wake up at 2 or 3 am work, work for about 2 hours and drift back into sleep. When I do eventually get out of bed the first thing that I do is pray.  I do my devotions. One of the important things I’ve added in are what I call gratitude affirmations which is essentially a list of 10 things I like or am grateful for.

In summer I will run for an hour, come back home, I drink at least 2 litres of lemon water, get ready for my day and go on my school run. I’m usually at the office by 8 am. I proceed to check my mail, do my social media postings. A normal day for me consists of meetings, report writing, module development, prospecting for new business, proposal writing etc. I am not active on social media neither do I engage in personal social media interactions during the day. I generally chat to my friends in the evening unless it something that is work related because I am at work. So I don’t do personal calls unless there is an important issue that needs to be dealt with. I find I talk less and less to my friends now.

On a training day – I have the same morning routine. I aim to be in the training room 30 minutes before training is to commence. I usually train for the whole day then go back to the office and catch up on the day’s goings on and admin.

You mention that you talk less and less to your friends during working hours. How do you find some of your relationships have altered on account of that?

Over the years I have identified what friendships are and what relationships mean. I believe associations are important because you become what you behold and what you hear. As friends we are peers. We share values and interests and proceed to influence each other. I guard my mind on who I associate with depending on what’s going on in their lives and what they talk about and if they are growing. If u are not growing, or making an effort to grow, or are not going anywhere slowly – I automatically reassess the essence of the friendship. This has therefore left me with very few friends.

I have social friends with whom I try to get together with once a month or so. I have good friends who add value spiritually, emotionally, mentally and so on. So I am very particular about who is in my life. I know a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people – but lately I have scaled down the number of people I call close friends. I have very few friends now. Sometimes we lose out on our destinies being in relationships that don’t edify. I am therefore harnessing all my tools, social and business networks and relationships. For example I have an amazing friend. I hardly talk to her and we don’t see each other often but she is a dear friend of mine. To be friends you don’t have to be bosom buddies and hang out all the time. Also, if you have the right people in your life, they too will be busy in their lives. We do need relationships. God uses people and relationships to get things done. Moses was used of GOD to talk to Pharaoh; Noah was used to build the ark.

How do you balance all faculties of your life; that is marriage, parenting and entrepreneurship? What keeps you grounded in the process?

There is nothing like balance. There is always one area of your life suffering let’s not kid ourselves. To me it’s about understanding your seasons, personal life mission and values. Sometimes you have work late nights at the office or travel and be away from home for prolonged periods of time. Take in what you can and do as much as you can do. I can’t say there is ever a perfect balance because while you are trying to grow your business or develop your career for example, there will be times when your family has reduced access to you or spends limited time with you. Even for a stay at home mom – her career is on hold as she is nurturing and nurturing her children. It’s like a see-saw. In one season one area may weighing heavily on you yet in another, something else takes over and affects something else. There is no balance because something suffers all the time.

I also think as women we tend to judge each other’s methods and lifestyles to a degree, yet we fail to consider or appreciate the different personalities and the seasons that the other person may be walking in. For example, some may think I am vivacious and a pleasure to be around while others may find me rigid and boring. What I find to be productive may not be productive to someone else. Alternatively, I have never been a stay-at-home mom because I am not by nature a homemaker. Yes my home is well organised, fully functional and administratively run excellently, but someone else may think I ought to run it or do differently by it for example.

As women we need to get rid of stereotypical views about each other and appreciate our differences. The key is to be fulfilled. Be who you are as long as you are satisfied, fruitful and fulfilled. Your life is within your control. We have different personalities, varying life missions and different things going on in our lives.

Zimbabwe is at a critical change wherein a new breed of people is required to stir our nation into a viable turnaround. Clearly you are at the helm of that through inspiring change in individuals and corporate organizations. What opportunities would you like to see opening up for people, particularly women in our beloved nation?

I think opportunities are there. It’s the women that need to dress up and show up and shine. We need to take our positions and start speaking out. As women we can thrive in any sector or pursue any opportunity. We just need to rise up to the occasion and shine. For example during the constitution there were calls for women to participate but they didn’t show up. If we don’t participate in the process we can’t complain about the outcomes.

What sort of work do you see Avodah Consultants doing within the next 5 years and where? Do you have any plans for diversification of services?

I write. This year I plan on publishing a collection of my articles over the years.  I have a brand called the Queen of Sheba and for this we are launching a daily planner. I already have a journal called The Avodah Journal.  I want to get into media and publishing. I believe a person has to tell their own story. I want to do biographies. I want to do a magazine – all of these endeavors of which I would like to fall under the Queen of Sheba Brand.

We have an outlet called Queenmakers which focuses on women empowerment oriented initiatives and bringing out the queen in you. Its ethos is founded on the story of the Queen of Sheba who amassed a lot of wealth and commanded a lot of respect. If you read the story, it is said she was wealthy and travelled to Ethiopia to meet with King Solomon. For her to be able to travel with an entourage on camel back to visit King Solomon, she must have had a lot by way of resources for her servants. It’s also said she went with gifts. It was said that no one ever gave Solomon the gifts that she did. King Solomon was given gifts by a wealthy African woman. It is said she talked to him, engaged him and they conversed and took a liking with each other. The Queen of Sheba was exceptional. Esther had to fast for three days to attain an audience from her own husband! The Queen of Sheba’s story is illustrative of just how powerful, authoritative and captivating a woman can be. Every African woman has what it take to reach the apex of the existence. Every woman must develop the character that incubates success.

Queenmakers is effectively about helping women to increase their level of self-belief and inspiring women to have big goals and chase big dreams. If you want to do “mabhero” for example, be the “Bale Queen of Zimbabwe!” Aim high! Don’t settle for selling out of your boot for years on end! You have to see yourself work toward the mountaintop of whatever it is that you are doing.

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Who is (are) your earthly pillar(s) of strength?

I was raised by a single parent grandmother…who was mean but amazing. She raised her 5 children, drove a car and was independent, lived in a suburb, made her own money and carried incredible strength of character. I think for that generation that was huge. A lot of my values stem from how she lived her life. I am fiercely independent. My mom is totally opposite for me. She is patient, hardworking, and a darling. My mom always told me that education is your first husband. What she meant by that is that your mind is your greatest resource. You have to take care of your mind and your body.

I have met amazing women like Nancy Guzha who is the Vice President of Unilever Southern Africa.  Many women are territorial and stingy. You walk up to an order or more accomplished woman and I seeking mentorship and they close up as if you are invading a certain territory. Nancy to me is very humble and inspirational. She has a very busy schedule but makes time to listen. She listens well. She is life changing.

Some of my mentors are people I have never met. I love biographies and read many biographies. Some of my mentors are occupying spaces that I would like to one day find myself in. Oprah Winfrey I like because she is doing what she is doing and doing it well. I watch her from a distance. Locally there are many women doing well and a lot of them are amazingly open and helpful.

I will say though that one of my challenges in as far as mentorship is that locally, there are very few women that do what I do at the level that I would like to get at locally. There are few prominent women speakers that are at the level of “iconism” that I aspire to.

One of the reasons why Quintessential F is so passionate about inspiring women is because we fully understand the liberating effect of finally understanding who God created you to be and walking in it? What words of advice would you give the woman out there who is in a rut of any kind – be it struggling with any form of abuse, life’s failures, stagnant spiritual life or career etc. and is looking for a way out but does not know how?

Valleys pass. As long as the sun rises you will live another day. As long as you wake up to tomorrow, anything can happen and shift in your favour. So always be hopeful and  don’t give up.

Foodie & Culinary Queen Taffy Pfupajena Shares on Her Passion

Tastefully Mama T Proprietor and Entrepreneur Tafadzwa Pfupajena Talks Food & Running a Culinary Business

QF is so excited to share this interview of Tafadzwa Pfupajena nee Pongweni, wife, mom and fierce entrepreneur in the culinary realm. We love her simply because her story illustrates to all of us out there that if you do what you love, and share your gifting with your loved ones, resounding doors of opportunity and profits may find their way into your world sooner than you imagined…

Introducing Owner of Tastefully MamaT – Tafadzwa Pfupajena…

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Who is Tafadzwa Pfupajena nee Pongweni in ten words?

I cheated with this question because I find it difficult to describe myself. Very few people know me well, but one of the people that do is my bestie, Shathiso Coyne. These are the words she used to describe me: generous, thoughtful, analytical, intelligent, compassionate, sensitive, creative/stylish, poised, nurturing.

Who/What inspired you to start Tastefully MamaT?

Some people exercise, take up gardening or even read to relax – I cook. I’ve always dreamt of opening a deli with healthy and tasty gourmet food. I used to tell myself, I will wait until I have a lot of spare cash to play with. But life always gets in the way – what if that never happened? So after my maternity leave, I decided to pursue my dream and I haven’t looked back.

How did you come up with the name?

Easy – I didn’t. I asked my creative genius of a friend, Anita Sales, to come up with a name that encompasses who I am and what I want to do. I sent her this request via whatsapp and (no jokes) 5 minutes later she had responded with 3 options and “Tastefully Mama T” was the first option. Like I said she’s a creative genius.

What role does God play in your life?

He is my life! I cannot bring out the best of myself as mother, wife, daughter, sister or friend without Him. I put Him at the centre of everything I do.

How long have you been operating?

I opened shop in February 2013.

What challenges did you face when you started and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge I have faced and am still facing is the balancing act between my personal life, career and the business. However my support system has been amazing so there have been less tears and more fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment, not necessarily financially but the pride of making a dream a reality.

Does your husband play an active role in the business other than Chief moral and emotional supporter?

Papa T plays a huge role in this business. Besides watching over our son while I attend to orders he has become my driver, my Marketing Director, Accountant, he manages TMT’s twitter account and he’s my official taster 🙂 Just to give you an idea of how involved he is – over the Easter long weekend I was catering for a family lunch. For their dessert they wanted a cheesecake carrot cake that has a cream cheese frosting. I decided to try out a new recipe for the cheese cream frosting at 10pm on a Saturday night, which went horribly wrong. Most shops weren’t open because of the Easter weekend but that didn’t fret Papa T. He simply said “relax I’ll make a plan” and that has been his motto throughout this whole buisness venture. And true to his word, he made a plan and the cake was delivered on time.

How has this venture changed you?

I think I’ve become less afraid of taking risks – working in a corporate job teaches you to become used to routine. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with routine, but being outside of my comfort zone has been refreshing and invigorating. I don’t have time to get bored as I’m constantly thinking about how to improve or evolve my business.

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How do you stay relevant and current? / What inspires your recipes?

I believe great food is timeless, no great chef out there has ever tried to change the essence of a Sunday Roast. This is what I try and do with food, I attempt to create timeless dishes that can be enjoyed by my children and their children. Food should bring families together because of the history behind a simple recipe.

What lessons have you learnt first about running a business?

If you don’t love what you’re doing then don’t do it.

If you’re in bed by 8pm every night then you’re doing something wrong.

And when you do go to bed and you’re not thinking or dreaming about new ideas for your business, then the chances of your business surviving beyond your generation is slim to none.

What is your vision for your business

Right now my main goal is to open up my deli, whatever happens beyond that will be a blessing.

If you knew the challenges you would face before embarking on this journey would you still have started Tastefully Mama T?

Yes definitely!! And I’m willing to go through those challenges over and over again because they have made me appreciate my family and friends, a good night’s rest and time management. I am confident and not afraid to say what I want or go after what I want. My challenges didn’t break me they made me.

What support network do you have other than Papa T ?

I’m blessed to have extremely supportive family and friends who have helped me since I started my business. My go to people are Papa T and my bestie, Shathiso Coyne. Shathiso has definitely been my emotional support system and my biggest cheerleader, urging me on when I thought I was going to throw in the towel. My confidence in baking came from when she encouraged me to make a gluten-free cheesecake which I thought I just couldn’t do. I cannot name everyone inidividually but I have loved ones who have listened to my ideas, referred clients to me, helped with babysitting and a million and one other things that are too numerous to mention.

As a wife and mother how do you get the balance right between, your day job, mummy, wife, CEO of home affairs and your business?

By being present and taking each role as it comes. This means when I’m with my son, nothing or no one else is important during this time. I don’t take work or business calls and I’m not thinking about the next order. The reason why people get stressed out is because they are constantly thinking of things they don’t have control over. Live in the present and enjoy the moment. This is a valuable lesson I learnt from Papa T, he never stresses about anything and I asked him why this is so and he simply said, “I’m here today, tomorrow hasn’t come.”

What advice would you give to women out there who have dreams of starting their own business?

The difference between you and a successful person is that they dared to make their dream a reality, don’t allow the fear of failure stop you from trying and never use your circumstances as an excuse for not taking the first steps to starting your business.

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Meet Zimbabwean Youth Shaper Shingi Nyamwanza

CHANGING THE WORLD ONE PERSON AT A TIME WITH 4-H AFRICA MD SHINGI NYAMWANZA

A good bit of time has passed since we first shared our interview with inspirational 4-H Africa MD Shingi Nyamwanza. A friend to the Quintessential F mission, we are thankful that she allowed us the opportunity to share her story on making impactful change through Africa’s youth. We had to share again simply because well…a great testimony never gets old. Introducing Shingi Nyamwanza…

Shingi Nyamwanza

Shingi Nyamwanza. Who is she and what is her quest in life?

I’m God’s daughter first. I came to know Him late in life (early 20’s) but can’t imagine walking this journey without Him. I tried that whole “superwoman I can do everything on my own” and a lot of times just ended up falling flat on my face. Next, I’m a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend and a friend. I’m an idealist, surprisingly, an introvert, pretty private and more sensitive than people realize. Now that I’m settled in who I am, I’m on a quest to leave this world a little better than when I entered it. I want people, especially in Africa to know that you can do some powerful development work in the nonprofit space without being and looking broke and beat down. Community impact does not equal a poverty mentality.

You were born in Germany, raised in Zimbabwe, and spent a significant portion of your adult life in the United States and are now resident on our beloved continent. What did you learn about yourself during your tenure out west that you believe has made you into the woman you are today?

I learned about God, and really that means I, learned about who I am. Not sure I have it all the way figured out but I’m enjoying the ride. I learned that you don’t have to be perfect or pretend to be. And it’s okay if you don’t always fit in. Life is less painful when you’re just yourself.

I learned that family and close friends are important to me. I can’t live anywhere where I’m not in close proximity to both- yes 14 years in the diaspora to figure that one out.

I love a challenge, especially in unchartered territory – new projects, new roles etc. They always seem to find me. From running my Uni’s first ever freshman residential program, to being my orgs first international hire. When you’re in the diaspora and trying to find your way, you end up doing things you never knew you had the strength or courage to do. At the time I wished for a simpler, more defined and structured life like my fellow American classmates, but now I thank God that my life took so many twists, turns and dips. It’s made me more open-minded, resilient, spontaneous and adventurous. I guess looking back, I really walked the verse,  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. God, through my experiences, has made me bolder and more confident in who He created me to be. My former CEO used to tell me “the world is waiting for you to seize the brass ring. Don’t miss it because it will be awhile before it comes back around”.  When I finally trusted myself to grab it, the world just opened up.

What called you back to the motherland?

God’s calling which manifested as a determined commitment to helping shape what happens to my momma Africa. I always used to say that there are plenty of intelligent women shaping and growing N. America. They don’t really need me and probably wouldn’t miss me but Africa does (well I’d like to think so) . More specifically, after I really wrapped my mind around the 4-H model in the US, it ignited a commitment and belief in the power of Africa’s young people. Countries like China and the US have succeeded in some part by investing in and education young people.  Also, there’s something about the beauty and complexity that is momma Africa that just sucks you in. We are such a rich continent ,not just in terms of natural resources, but in terms of human spirit and opportunities. The sooner we start to see ourselves with that lens the faster and higher we’ll rise. Secondly, my point above about family and friends. I so deeply longed for my family and my “clique” while I was away. Not to say I didn’t make some of the most amazing friends while I was abroad but there’s something about doing life with your ‘tribe’ (I don’t mean that literally) and your ‘people’. If gives you that extra fire in your belly.

At what point in your life were you enticed by the notion of giving back to the community through working with today’s youth?

I’ve always been a softy at heart. I just don’t always come off that way. I wish I had one of those ah ha moment stories where I can say I just knew that this was my passion and calling. To be honest, I love what I do but I’m still not 100% sure I know what my calling/passion is. In fact, I got here because I knew what I didn’t like more than I knew what I liked and wanted to do. I had no clue what I wanted to do after business school. I knew I wanted to do something that involved social impact but that was only after spending 2 years in the corporate world – I knew that pure undiluted corporate life wasn’t for me. When I had this realization, I was working for GE and doing pretty well. My contract was coming to an end and I remember interviewing with Merrill Lynch and telling the MD that money didn’t motivate me. Imagine the look of horror on this man’s face, lol! Here I was interviewing for a sales role within his investment portfolio and I had the nerve to say, “money doesn’t motivate me”. And I remember saying it with such conviction! Still not sure why he offered me that job. I asked him to give me a few weeks to think about it and he obliged. Must have been a slow hiring year lol. That week I prayed that God would come down with a booming voice and tell me what to do. Yeah, we know how that played out… One day I was searching online and I came across a job in resource development for a nonprofit that  I’d never heard of (assisting senior fundraisers in convincing fortune 500 partners to invest in America’s young people). They offered me half of what Merrill Lynch was offering but I took a leap of faith (not sure I knew that that’s what I was doing), accepted the offer and drove cross country to the big city – DC. My friends all thought I was loco. What MBA leaves GE, turns down an offer from Merrill Lynch and goes to work for a relatively unknown nonprofit focused on children?! As you can imagine the calls and emails from the parents didn’t stop that year. They too thought their child was going through a major life crisis.

I wish I could say that at that moment the sun got brighter, the birds started singing, the angels broke out in song and all was right in my world. It was tough going at first. I was asked to do a lot of writing – which I hated at the time. I had to learn the ways of nonprofit life and for a while I thought I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. I remember thinking and even telling my then boss that, I’ll probably do 3 years here at most. God had other plans, as He always does. As I learned more about this organization that empowers young people to change communities, countries and economies I started to see a bigger role for 4-H in Africa. God certainly gave me that  vision because to drive the point home, my CEO at the time wasn’t only God fearing but shared my vision for 4-H making an impact in Africa. He just happened to have been raised in Ghana and we just happened to just get along and still have a strong mentor/mentee relationship that goes both ways. At the time we didn’t have a global strategy let alone a globally focused staff. They’d done away with that in the 80’s or 90’s. But it just felt right. He’d come into my office, prop his feet up and we’d go on and on about Africa. It was then that I started to feel alive. I took on extra projects for him.  I remember doing work that an MBA “technically shouldn’t do”, like book travel and meetings but it connected me back to my motherland so I gave it my all. It was then that I discovered my passion for Africa, youth and the power our young people possess to change and accelerate our continents trajectory.

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As a young woman holding such a high ranking position in a multinational organization, how do you feel you have carved a place for yourself where a vast majority of society believes such positions should be held by our male counterparts?

It’s just a fancy title ;-). The real work is done by our country partners but I am very grateful and humbled to have gotten an opportunity to do important work, on a continent I love, and with some amazing youth workers across the continent.

It’s pretty simple, I can’t be anyone but me. My dad taught me a long time ago, that I am just as smart, just as capable and just as worthy as any boy sitting next to me. So I don’t try to be like a man or make a point that I’m a woman, I just do me. God created me in His perfect image and created this path for me so I let Him lead and I follow where He takes me. There have been many occasions where I have walked into meetings and people ask me where my boss is. I just laugh it off and get to work. Usually what I bring to the table in terms of ideas and hard work “levels the playing field” in their eyes. No need to get mad or prove a point.

What do you think from your experiences and interactions, are some of the toughest challenges that today’s young people battle with?

It still amazes me that we don’t give young people the voice they deserve in Africa. I was on a panel at an AU agriculture (AG) focused conference and after my comments, a more mature gentleman calmly put his hand up and said “you young people need to learn from us and not just think you have all the answers”. Ag is still an ‘older’ profession in Africa (average age of a farmer is 65) so I shouldn’t be too surprised at his comments. Caught me unawares especially because nowhere in my comments did I allude to the fact that we (young people) had all the answers or that I didn’t respect or appreciate the lessons learned and roads travelled by the more mature people in the room. What that made me realize is that in a society where jobs and opportunities seem limited, young people are always seen as a threat as opposed to part of the economic development solution. One thing I admire about the 4-H model and how it was a part of America’s transformation, is that young people were and still are given leadership roles and a voice amongst pretty senior corporate and/or government officials to express their needs and ideas. Innovation and ideas don’t just come from the ‘mature’ or tenured. Some of the most brilliant ideas and innovations come from young people in the most remote locations. I’ve seen it myself in rural Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and others. We have got to do better by our young people by creating a platform for us to not only voice our ideas but create opportunities to bring those ideas to life through incubation hubs, business mentors, youth funds etc. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are many models to learn from around the world.

You were not so long ago appointed as the Managing Director of 4-H Africa. Please share with our audience what 4-H is and how this opportunity has impacted your life?

So I’m actually the MD, Africa for Global Clover Network (GCN), a wholly owned subsidiary of National 4-H Council. National 4-H Council is the nonprofit partner of 4-H headquartered in USDA. GCN is tasked with supporting independent country lead 4-H partners around the world. 4-H is actually a US Government (USDA) organization that dates back to President Abraham Lincoln. The Smith Lever Act of 1862 gave each state a piece of land (grant) to build a university (Land Grant Universities). Think Cornell, Ohio State, Michigan State, Tuskegee etc. As part of this grant, each university had to establish an extension arm to deliver research from the university into the community. There’s a youth component of that extension work called 4-H. The story goes, that 4-H was part of the engine that moved the US from being an agrarian society to an industrialized one. Young boys would adopt new technologies of farming from their 4-H clubs, teach their parents and communities, increase production, and as a result people could engage in other areas of the economy further up the value chain. I’m always impressed by the vision and foresight President Abraham Lincoln had to think of such an intricate system to educate communities. Today, 4-H is found in every country and state in the US. This idea, like any good idea, began spreading around the world some 60 years ago. The unique thing about 4-H is that it defines youth from 5 years old right up to 18 and some countries 25. Basically, we start them early in taking an ownership of the development of their community. All done in partnership with a caring adult, while mastering a skill and taking on leadership roles within the club and community. What I like about 4-H is that it’s not a US planted organization or model. Local community volunteers around the world who are passionate about young people normally adapt it from information they find on the web, from development workers (many who are former 4-H’ers), extension workers that travel abroad, or their own visits to the US. I love it because it’s an organic model that’s spread on its own and is always adapted to the local culture and norms. My job is to work with those local independent, country-led  4-H organizations across Africa to create sustainable strategies to engage more young people. The impact on my life has been huge! I’ve met and shared stories with people from all works of life across the world. From presidents to local super hero teachers to young boys and girls working hard to improve the ecosystem that they are a part of. We all want the same thing – To create a better life for ourselves and our families. Collectively, that’s powerful! I see God at work in what I do.

Given the current socio-economic challenges of your home country Zimbabwe, if you could facilitate a social change initiative for youth and young adults in Zimbabwe, what would your platform or area of concentration be?

That’s easy – agriculture. I NEVER thought I’d end up in this sector but over the last 5 years, I’ve seen such amazing opportunities for young people. I’ve seen 15 and 16 year olds feed entire schools from their 4-H produce and sales. I’ve seen the same 4-H’ers adopt HIV orphans and pay for school fees also from their 4-H businesses. One of my colleagues likes to say “no farmer no nation”. Zimbabwe has to go back to being the breadbasket of Africa. There is no excuse BUT  let’s not stop at production, let’s get young people engaged all along the value chain. The truth is we all need food, and the world needs food. So as a country and as a continent we need to step up to the plate to help feed ourselves, the world and to create jobs in this vital sector. And then as we develop we do as others in the US, Canada, Europe have done – add programs in science, engineering, technology and math, healthy living, citizenship etc. The list is endless!

Which of your fondest memories come to mind when you hear our continent’s name AFRICA?

Definitely, growing up in Zimbabwe. I would argue that we had the best upbringing. Great schools, safe neighborhoods and just general good living. I always say that when I have kids, I would love for them to grow up in the Zimbabwe I grew up in.

Share with our readers a day in the life of Shingi?

I wish there was such a thing. I can safely say no 2 days are the same. It’s the joys of working for a nonprofit in development and working remotely from my home office with partners scattered across Africa and colleagues in Washington DC. It takes a lot of discipline and commitment that’s for sure. It varies, from conferences, to donor engagement to conference calls in my home office, to car rides to the most remote parts of our beautiful continent tp 4-H club meetings. But each day is littered with a gym session (working on making those daily), chats with my Abba, my love, whatsapping with my girlfriends and my family. I don’t have normal office hours. That doesn’t happen when you have colleagues  and partners scattered across multiple time zones.

Who is GOD in your life and how do you feel your relationship with him has shaped your life?

Where to start? Father, Provider, Way Maker, Miracle Producer, Lover, Fear Destroyer, Motivator…  Basically He’s life. As I said earlier I wasn’t raised in the church so coming to Christ was a late-in-life conscience decision. I was one of those that thought that as soon as I said that magical salvation prayer, life would all be roses and butterflies. I’ve had some “Job” moments especially during my Uni years but I wouldn’t take back a single one because they all brought me so much closer to my Father and shaped the woman I am today. Now that I’m learning that this is a journey, the focus is not about how many times I go to church, what fancy “religious sayings” I can rattle off. it’s  a personal, loving and living relationship. Each day is a another opportunity to get to know Him by a different name.

Have you ever had a really difficult season in your life wherein you almost felt like throwing the towel in; and if so – how did you forge through the murky waters?

Haven’t we all? Joys of growing up. I always say, that I wish someone would have given me a step by step manual with very specific instructions. Should have started reading the Bible sooner :-). I’ve never been a quitter. Guess my parents named me appropriately. To be honest, it’s all just a lot of prayer, waking up each day and choosing to put one foot in front of the other and reminding myself that ‘trouble don’t last always. Joy comes in the morning.” And I’ve learned that it always does. Sermons, my favorite gospel songs and encouragement from my family, my love and my girls definitely help me when the going gets really tough.

Let’s put you on the spot here for a little bit. Who are the most important people in your life and why?

My Babi (dad) – he’s the most loving man I know. He gave me a healthy sense of how a man should treat a woman. My mom used to say, “You need to be realistic, you’re not going to find a man like your babi.” I think she was wrong ;-).My mom – we used to fight like cats and dogs when I was growing up, like most moms and daughters do, but now we’re besties. We are so similar in terms of our strong will. She is a pillar of strength. She always knows the right amount of tough love and encouragement to dish out. My lil sister aka bugga. She is my inspiration in a lot of areas of life – God, love and family

If you could embark on a road trip from Cape to Cairo – which 3 people would you want to enjoy the ride with and why…and yes, you can only take 3 people along!

Goodness! I’d actually only take one. My love. He is a laugh a minute and always down for some fun! He’s also my taskmaster, motivator and an earthly manifestation of how much God loves me. Who needs 3 people when you have all that in one? 😉

If your career was not in youth development, which one of your passions would you pursue?

Something in health. I was convinced I was going to be a doctor but then I realized I don’t do mucus, pus, and blood. So maybe health policy. I’m not one of those people with a distinct passion(s).I used to think there was something wrong with me but the older and I get and the more honest I am with my friends, the more I realize there are a few of us none “specific passionate” people out there

Defining moment for 2014?

Trusting God and moving to SA. It’s been one miracle after another. The last 10 months have been everything I’ve prayed and hoped for  – He’s done exceedingly abundantly, above all I could ask or think

Three items on your bucket list?

Getting married, having babies and… Let me get back to you 🙂

What does Shingi do to relax?

Watch mindless TV or read

Favorite read of all time?

That’s a tough one because I read a lot. Don’t think I have just one favorite.

Part of QFs mission is emphasizing to women the beauty of pursuing ones goals and living out their purpose on earth as best they can. On pursuing our goals and chasing our dreams as women, what practical advice do you have for QFs out there?

Trust yourself! As women we are stronger and more resilient that we give ourselves credit for. Take the leap and do what God has called you to do. And if you don’t know what that is yet, that’s perfectly okay. Sometimes He reveals the pieces of the puzzle as we walk with Him. In fact, I believe that’s how it happens for most of us. He’s just asking us to take the first step.  The journey will reveal so many things about who you are and what’s important to you. Take a step at a time, enjoy each day/moment and learn from it all. One day, you’ll look up and realize you are exactly where you’ve always wanted to be. At least I did. Grab that brass ring and enjoy the ride. Your future self will thank you…

Final words from Shingi?

Do the best and be the best you can be. No one owes you anything. Work hard, do your best, and trust that God has a perfect plan. I know all too well from my own dark moments and valleys that some days it doesn’t feel that way but if you trust God and yourself and work the plan, the world has endless opportunities just waiting for you to step up, do and be all you have been called to do and be…

The Heart Behind DEMOYO

Paidemoyo Mazhandu, Designer of Zimbabwean-birthed Fashion Line DEMOYO Shares Her Story

In our quest to keep the inspirational juice coming, Quintessential F was incredibly blessed to sit down with International Fashion Designer – Paidemoyo Chideya of DeMoyo, our very own Zimbabwean sister who has not only broken boundaries in the fashion world as one of Africa’s upcoming designers to watch, but took the bold step to move back to Zimbabwe after 23 years of living abroad – to make all things DeMoyo happen on and  from home ground.  With her line now sold also from Truworth’s stores (yeap – that’s a big deal!!) we hope her words shape your understanding of the notion of “all things are possible” as they have done for us. Enjoy…

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Tell us, who is Paidemoyo Chideya Mazhandu?

She is a little spark of the Creator encased in a person called Paidemoyo Chideya Mazhandu.

Take us through a day in the life of Paidemoyo Chideya at DeMoyo?

A typical day starts at 5:30am. The rest of the day with variance, will comprise of fabric shopping, designing, sketching, invoicing, meeting with my tailors, adjusting clothes and working on the next collection, cleaning my house, computer work and developing my ideas further. I try and shut down by 6pm, so I can have family time with my husband.

Where does your design mind draw inspiration?

It can be anything from God, to my mother, to “prowess” (a recent season of mine), to my colour of the moment, to trees, to my mood – anything.

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Who is God in your life?

God is everything. Without God, I do not exist.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a designer to date and how have you overcome it?

Challenges come up everyday. The biggest challenge if I was to be more specific was probably proving to myself that I could actually become exactly what I wanted to become. Many people told me that I didn’t have what it took to do what I do. I overcame it by believing in myself and staying extremely focused on my goal, and doing just a little bit everyday.

You are a citizen of the world having lived in some of the world’s fashion capitals (London, New York, Paris) what made you come back to Zimbabwe?

You can live in all the countries in the world, but you only have one home.  It was time to come back to my roots after 23 years.

Who is your support system?

God, my husband and my mother, and when he was still alive my father as well. That being said, my brother is also my biggest supporter. They know how challenging this work is and they still push me to be better, to fight harder and to keep going.

At what point in your life did you know that being a designer is what you were called to do?

It was a specific moment, in my first year of college at Parsons School of Design, when I attended my very first fashion show in Paris, and it was a Valentino show in 1997. #lifechanging for me. It was then, that I knew.

A big congratulations – cue happy dance on your behalf as the DeMoyo line is now available in Truworths.  What does this milestone mean to you?

Thank you very much. When I started DeMOYO, I did so with the intention of creating a vertically integrated system that would stem from Zimbabwe, were we grow the cotton, make the fabric, create jobs particularly for women and the girl child and produce local goods for the nation and also for export. Our nation has been inundated with cheap Chinese goods, and this has created a vacuum and a massive problem in our manufacturing industry, where Zimbabwe was a leader in this sector. It’s very important that we address these issues immediately, otherwise our children will suffer much more than we are locally. Working with Truworths, has given  me hope and had opened a window that’s allowing the consumer to focus on the local market- even if its just a little bit… but it’s a start.

You have worked with some well recognised designers – Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors.  What would you say are the three lessons you learnt from these designers that has influenced your work ethic and how you approach your designs?

1) Dreams come true. 2) Stay true to your vision and what you want to say to the world. 3) You can become the highest paid fashion associate in the world….if you want to.

From your long list of achievements including a show room in the Vera Wang building in New York to name a few, what would you say is your greatest achievement?

Hard question: On a very personal note, it’s the idea that I can wake up everyday and do what I want to do. Most people don’t have that privilege, but I have been blessed enough to do what I want to do.  Of course, there are events, shows, awards, etc., but those are perks – they are moments.  Even though its work, I get to play all day.

How do you maintain a balance with the many hats you wear?

I have to create healthy boundaries, because if it were up to me, I would be working 24/7. But I have a family now, so I have to draw a line on a daily basis, and make sure that its all flowing.

We at QF love how you are conscious about sustainable development in your designs.  How have you incorporated this eco consciousness in the DeMoyo line for Truworths, Zimbabwe

Well, it starts off with simple things like using fabrics that are as natural as possible, that are not over processed, and that have as little chemicals as possible. This is not so easy these days because organic fabrics, for example in this environment are hard to come by. But it also boils down to the person that’s sewing the garment – what are their working conditions?  Have they been paid well? How am I supporting their wellbeing?

What advice would you give to women out there who have put their dreams on the back burner?

Well, you don’t want to wake up with regrets. It’s very important for a woman to ensure that her joy comes first. When she does that, she can be 1000 times better, because she’s giving to herself through her dreams. It’s a massive gift from God that we tend to take for granted, or perhaps we don’t understand.  We also have a responsibility to follow our dreams, that’s the whole point of being alive.

When you aren’t choosing fabrics and perfecting your sketches what do you to relax and pamper yourself?

Hanging out with my boo. LOL. I love live music, I love to read, I love to cook, and a massage here and there never hurts.

What pearls of wisdom has your mother given you that you apply to your life today?

Mom would always say as I grew up, “Your best is good enough for us” – so whatever grade for example that I got at school, as long as it was my best, it was perfect.  I apply that everyday with my work and with what I do. As long as it’s my best it’s good enough. So you can imagine, I push quite hard, because I have to do my best. But when I fail, and I do everyday at something, it provides me with an opportunity to grow, develop and evolve.

What do you love most about being based in Zimbabwe right now?

I’m home.  My family is here, the food is organic and the sky is the limit.

Where do you see DeMoyo in ten years?

Flagship stores across the world 🙂

Meet DEEKAWZEE Jewellery Designer TAKUDZWA CHITSIKE

Takudzwa Chitsike Speaks “DEEKAWZEE” and Growing a Proudly Zimbabwean Jewellery Brand

We love DeeKawZee and even more so, the brand’s designer Taku Chitsike. Vibrant a personality, tenacious and brand savvy, she has done an incredible job illustrating how it is possible to turn one’s passion to profits even in a tough environment. We shared this interview a little over a year ago, so naturally much has changed since we sat down with Taku in 2014. Her story still remains inspirational to those of us who wonder how we can create a business out of something that we love despite our academic background and perhaps expectations from loved ones. Taku shared…

263772340452 Taku Chitsike

So we have only ever heard of you being referred to as “Taku” – but naturally we would love to know all there is to share about you which is why Quintessential F had to sit down and have a chat with you. Tell our readers who Taku is and describe to them what makes you uniquely you?

My name is Takudzwa Runyararo Chitsike. I never used my middle name but apparently people decided that they were going to start calling me by my full name. So hey, it is my name so I might as well embrace it fully.

On how I describe myself; goodness – that’s a really hard question to answer because I’m so many things. I’m fun loving; generally a very happy person but very hardworking. I believe in hard work paying off. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow but it will pay off at some stage so I push myself to the very last measure on everything. If I’m cleaning the house I’m cleaning the house till its squeaky and spotlessly clean. So everything I do, I will do it 110% because I believe somewhere somehow doing it that way will always pay off.

I’m 33, not married, and I don’t have any children just yet. That’s me in a nutshell.

We talk to a lot of women and they describe a vast array of experiences that led to them finding their life’s mission or pursuing their passion. How did you get started on your journey?

I can safely say that when I was really young, I always had a creativity jist about me. I used to knit as we had knitting classes at school, but then I would always bring my knitting home and I would then convert my knitting into other little things. I used to dress my dolls; I used to make wigs for myself and so on. So I was always very good with making stuff. I guess my parents being the old school parents that they are; it was like “No, school! Go to school and pursue a formal career.”

I wanted to be a fashion designer. So throughout my years at school – for occasions like leavers’ dances I used to design my friends’ dresses, draw them and come up with the outfits. Then came to picking varsity after A’ levels. I told my parents I wanted to go to the States as that was the best place I could go for fashion design school. My parents laughed at me so loud (she chuckles) and made it clear it wasn’t going to pan out that way. I’m the youngest in my family. My older sister was just finishing law school. My brother was in university pursuing a degree in hospitality. So from the perspective of my parents, I had to follow suit. I didn’t have the money to even contest their decision. I then went to the same varsity as my brother in Cape Town and attended law school.  I went all the way to Masters Level in Law.

I then finished law school and basically announced that it was time to do my own thing. I looked for schools and I then pursued a diploma in image consultancy also in South Africa. After that again my parents said for me to go back to pursuing law. I looked for a place to do my articles. I completed my articles and worked in practice for quite a while. As the story goes – I hated it. I suppose GOD directs your path because I then got a horrible boss.  This boss I felt didn’t like me and she made my life a total misery. Literally, a week wouldn’t go by without me bursting out into tears because I was that miserable.

A little while later I had an accident wherein I broke my toe. I wasn’t allowed to go to work for about a week. During that time I came to the realisation that life was SO COOL away from work. I wasn’t stressed, things were good. I felt relaxed, free. So I told myself I couldn’t go back as my life wasn’t going in the direction that I wanted it to go in. So I got up on a Friday, went into the office as usual, opened my laptop and typed in my resignation letter right there and then, put it in an envelope and decided I wasn’t going to be one of those people that would sneak out given my boss wasn’t in the office at that moment. I stayed the whole day up until 3pm so I could give her the letter when she came back. She came in and I gave her the letter. Naturally she was upset also because I expressly stated that I wasn’t serving notice – I was leaving now.

I told my mom I was packing up my place in Joburg and was coming to live with her in Pretoria. My mom is in the NGO world so she travels a lot. A lot of the times I would be at home on my own. I started getting bored and I thought of what I could do with myself. I had started an image consultancy business but it wasn’t going as I had expected given my newness in the industry. I then decided to get something to entertain myself and this “entertainment” came in the form of beading, and playing around with tools for making jewellery and so on. I slept at about 3am for two days trying to figure out how to bend stuff and do this and that until I got the hang of it.

I started selling at friends’ baby showers, parties and in that process, I decided I was moving back to Zimbabwe. You see in South Africa everything is in abundance. You can walk into any mall and find every type of earring or jewellery. At that time I realised there were no retailers like “Accessorize” who specialise solely in jewellery or accessories. I wanted to do that. I started like most people – selling things out of the boot of my car; driving around to office parks and telling people I was selling stuff. I kept pushing until I opened a store. It ran for a little while but my overheads were so high. I was so upset when a friend of mine said to close the shop. She believed I could so this without a store. So I closed the shop.

I started working from my spare room and distributing in other people’s stores. I started off with my stuff in one store. Now there are about 6 stores that carry my jewellery. Edgars has just taken me on. I’m trying to also push Truworths. I also do things like fairs. You can find me at Borrowdale Flea Market every Sunday.

I’m now working on a new project called MUCHENO where I take on other designers and promote their work like I promote my brand. I will take their products everywhere I go to sell my products. I’m doing it to promote them and also to illustrate to them that your passion can also be your profession. We must get out of this mind set of our parents’ generation of thinking that going to school is limited to certain professions. Going to school isn’t a bad thing – but there are different types of schools now like jewellery design school, cooking school and so on. You can go to school for something that you are passionate about.

  Deekwazee1

What’s your definition of Entrepreneurship particularly in the Zimbabwean environment?

I think we have all by default become entrepreneurs in one way or another. We are all selling tangible goods or providing some sort of service that’s not the usual. I believe putting yourself out there and looking for something that you are passionate about can inadvertently make you an entrepreneur. I emphasise the need for passion because without it, you will not feel energised to get up each day and pursue what it is you are doing. You need that passion to fuel you. There’s a difference between someone saying “I sell stuff” and being an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship – that is having a business, is an asset that’s not just about having something to do. It’s a bigger asset than retail to have your own business. It’s about getting people aware that that’s today’s reality and your passion is your reality. There are so many people doing what I do but you will never know who they are. They are pursuing their passions out of their homes, selling to people at church, selling to their friends but not really pushing themselves to making it a viable business.

In my case my passion has become my business to the extent that I can pay my bills from doing what I do and I can survive off of my passion. When I first started people laughed at me. Some even went to the extent of saying “Oh please, she’s bending little wires there’s no way she can be successful at that.” I told myself and them to stay tuned and watch it happen. Some of my biggest supporters now were actually quite embarrassed to say that I was making jewellery when asked what I was up to. They have since come to note that I am actually turning something that I love into a livelihood and are cheering me on.

Where do you get your design inspiration from? What inspires you to design a specific piece?

I have now realised that this is my purpose. I dream up designs. I have my phone beside me every day wherein I then use it to sketch in the event that I have a dream. I also read a lot. Magazines are my thing. I used to work for Jewel Magazine and do their fashion editing. I’m a huge picture fan so to be honest I don’t usually read articles in-depth. The visuals within magazines are what sink into my mind and I then use those for inspiration. When I go to the stores where I buy the materials that form my designs, I don’t usually buy things that I know how to use. I buy stuff I don’t know how to use and I can keep it for 6 months because I don’t know how to use it. Then at some point I figure out how it works.

In your journey to get to where you are today, what was the most difficult aspect or point in your life that gave you the impetus to seek out your passion apart from not enjoying your career in the legal fraternity?

For me it had to do with my move back to Zimbabwe. My father had been ill for quite some time and I felt like I was missing out on what was happening back home because I could effectively only come home once a year or so. Missing my dad and not spending enough quality time with me was a driving force. My dad was also a creative person; an amazing author of Shona books – so he supported my creative side. He understood my passion. I knew if I came back home he would be that person who would drive me to chase after my passion.

The name of your brand! We Shona people know the term “dhikauzi” to be representative of earrings. What made you choose that name as opposed to calling it something more contemporary?

When I was growing up I used to love huge earrings so my mom used to say stuff like “Mmmm ava mai ava nema dhikauzi avo ava” (“Mmm this lady and her earrings”). So I heard that word almost on a daily basis as I wore my different types of massive earrings. The name of my brand was therefore to me a no brainer but I wanted it to have some swag hence the spelling.

How do you describe the type of jewellery that you make?

It’s basically costume jewellery – not your precious stone or precious metal jewellery. It’s a mix really. When I first started off I had a lot of contemporary chandelier style earrings. As I grew I started realising that the ethnic trend was in so I have been mixed ethnic trends in there as well. Now it anything that’s fashionable. If its metal or fabric I’m there. There is no material that I’m afraid to use. I did a runway show at HIFA this year and used goat hide in some of my designs and people were fascinated.

Where do you source your materials?

Sourcing my materials locally has been a challenge as it is quite limited at present and the price points are unfavourable. I get most of my supplies from South Africa and anywhere else as my mom travels a lot so is able to bring me interesting pieces. I’ve been known to receive a gift and snap it in half to make something else. It’s the creative in me at work when that happens.

You’ve garnered significant success with your brand to date and your name is fast becoming a household name where local design and jewellery is concerned. How old is Dhikawzee?

I started designing jewellery for sale in 2011. It’s amazing how the brand has moved from being nothing to what it is today. Now I’m getting people in South Africa calling me and asking if I can come and do a show and that’s a big deal for me. My personality helps to because I talk to so many people about so many different things so it makes it easier to push your brand and create publicity for it. I really put myself out there. A brand is not solely about a product but the person behind it. Take Richard Branson for instance. People support his brand because of the person he is. By putting myself out there and advertising myself I am able to push my brand. I have to be that ambassador.

I am working on a MUCHENO online store as I have seen a move towards the online storefront. The beauty of accessories is that you don’t have to try something on to buy it. I am hoping to make the MUCHENO brand an Africa wide network as I endeavour to move beyond our borders. Our trends are all similar as Africans and I want to be the conduit by which to bring designers from across the continent together on an online platform.

How do you feel the Zimbabwean woman or entrepreneur is placed in terms of synergising and working together with one another?

We are getting better. When I first came back it was pretty cut throat. People didn’t want to work together and everyone was sensitive about competition. We have to learn to work together so as to make a larger impact on the platform in which we operate. If we don’t put differences aside and focus on the objectives at hand we hinder each other from growing. Because we live in such a small society in Zim we have to find a way to work together because in truth there isn’t much by way of escape.

Who is GOD to you?

I have been blessed. I cannot for the life of me not stop on a regular basis and think “WOW”. GOD has taught me patience. As people we are always in such a hurry. Things I prayed for when I was in high school are materialising now and I literally stop and think OMG. I am so blessed. I recently won the ZNCC Woman in Enterprise Award and I was up against some really phenomenal women. It’s overwhelming to think about what GOD has done for me. I am so grateful. I may not be the richest person but I am so happy. My happiness is not defined by having a husband or children but by my purpose feeling fulfilled by my passion.

As a single woman, by single we mean unmarried – what are some of the sentiments that you have had posed to you about how you live your life and how do you choose to debunk them?

I believe that many people in our society don’t realise that we are moving out of the conventional space. I believe it’s our parents and their counterparts’ generation who are struggling to accept how our generation is changing. People always ask why I am not married at this stage in my life or why I don’t “opt” to have children. Some have asked me what the problem is and I have adamantly stated that there is no problem. I am trying to fulfil my dreams first because there is a certain lifestyle that I want to have and want for my children to have. I do not want my children to have less than what I had. Right now with the way our economy is and how things are looking I have to work that much harder. I have made the decision not to put my children in a position of having less than I had. I find that a lot of times we are valuing certain things that are in many ways valueless.

For me it’s not about having a certificate of marriage to feel like I am supported or loved. There are people who are married and have partners that do not support them.  There are people who are married and living in the same house but living completely separate lives. I am happy where I am right now. I have great people in my life who support me; whether it be my partner in life or my sister. Many women are looking for a man to be the end all and be all in their lives, and when he doesn’t fit the part according to their expectations, they blame him when in actual fact, he is just being himself. I am so comfortable in my space and I thank GOD for that.

What has been your highlight for 2014?

For me there have been many. HIFA was one as it was my first runway show.  I had never done a ramp show before and it was amazing. It was amazing in that it grew me. It was such a stressful time for me. I carried the burden of making the product as well as putting the show on. No one gets to see all the commotion happening backstage.

The second one was winning the ZNCC Woman in Enterprise Award. I was first runner up in that category but I did not expect it at all especially given the women I was up against.

Third I would have to say I have now gotten to a stage where I know who I am. I know myself in terms of a businesswoman. I know what I want for my life and for my business. I want to be a well-known brand in Africa. My focus is on our continent because as Africans we are so quick to take what other continents have on offer yet we have a wealth of talent and resources within Africa. We need to start appreciating ourselves and our product.

How have you dealt with being told “no” in your life for whatever reason?

I have struggled with it. I’m still growing in that department but I think in my struggle I’ve had someone in my life who is very good with directing me in that aspect. He is different from me. I’m a very gentle person to the extent that if someone is very harsh with me – I am very emotionally sensitive. I wear my heart and emotions on my sleeve and my tears are always right there. But in the business realm you can’t afford to be like that. So I’m learning to put on two hats. Taku at home and Taku in business are in some ways different. It has not been easy hearing the “no’s” but to succeed in business you have to accept that you are not going to get all the opportunities that you want.

Is there a favourite personality that has adorned themselves in your jewellery?

I’ve had quite a few. Shingai Shonhiwa from the Noisettes. She rocks and she loves my stuff. When she came for a concert she wore my stuff and that was awesome. Candice Mwakalelye from ZiFM is my brand ambassador and wears my stuff anywhere and everywhere – love her! Prudence Katomeni is another phenomenal woman. She’s so cool. There are a lot of amazing women who have spurred me on and have been a part of my growth.

What do we do to relax outside of jewellery -making?

For me sometimes I actually turn to making jewellery when I’m upset because I then focus on what I’m making and not the cause of my angst. Outside of that – I have two beautiful nieces, one of which is 9 and the other 4. One amazes me with her personality and wit and the other is just crazy – so cute. I love spending time with them because they make me see the beauty of life. A lot of times we focus on things such as money yet we forget to appreciate the privilege of waking up, being alive and able to love and laugh. A lot of what I do is for them and I look forward to being able to spend more time with them.

Any last words for our readers from Taku?

Follow your heart, seek out your purpose and aim to find happiness. Nowadays with the economy and the recession that we have just come out of and others are still trying to come out of the aftermath, there are so many pressures; pressures of which are keeping us from focusing on what’s important to us. It’s not easy but at the end of the day you need to feel fulfilled with whatever it is you are doing so work towards that.