Meet Nobukhosi Ndlovu, the daring entrepreneur with an unwavering desire to succeed. Nobukhosi had to sell her personal car so that she could buy a van for deliveries of her produce to her customers. She knows about the challenges of trying to secure funding to kick-start a business without adequate collateral! She also knows that resilience is a key ingredient in running a prosperous business. Continue reading to find out what gave Nobukhosi the guts to leave employment and jump onto the entrepreneurial ship, and how she manages to stay on course!
Full name: Nobukhosi Ndlovu
Current title/company: Caudliss Trading T/A Nutrie Foods
Position: Managing Director
Educational background: Bsc Hons in Human Resource Management, Masters in Marketing Strategy, Mandela Washington Fellowship – Business and Entrepreneurship
Current city: Harare
Nobu, you are the Managing Director and founder of Caudliss Trading T/ A Nutrie Foods – a company which manufactures peanut butter, salted nuts, maputi and packages matemba and salt. You have successfully navigated what some would term a rough economic tide and managed to grow the company to a top peanut butter supplier. Currently, you supply to most wholesalers in Harare and surrounding towns. Take us through the journey of what brought you to where you are currently?
My career choices were mainly shaped by my childhood. My parents were entrepreneurs; they were farmers and they owned a grocery store and a trucking company. I always dreamt of having my own business. Working at my mother’s shop during the school holidays made me want to be my own boss when l grew up. l thought it would be great to employ other people and make an impact in their lives.
I worked for a human resource consulting firm for 5 years. One of my goals was to be self-employed when l finished my Masters. I wanted to be my own boss. I was already importing and selling clothing and homeware whilst l was employed but l wanted a business that was going to add value to myself and other people. Since I had already planned to start my own company, l started saving towards that goal. The money that l had saved wasn’t enough to buy the equipment and start production and I didn’t have collateral to borrow a loan from the bank; so l approached Virl Micro Finance company which agreed to give me a loan.
Every aspiring entrepreneur knows that in order to successfully start a company, you need adequate funding and the right infrastructure; both of which are hard to secure. Please tell us how you managed to access the funding and infrastructure you needed to jump-start your company and the challenges you faced in trying to secure same?
My savings were not enough to start a business so l approached a few banks and micro-financers but they would not assist me. I then approached Virl Microfinance which was initially reluctant to give me a loan but l was relentless and I presented my business plan. It was a challenge to get the money l needed without collateral. I had a small car which did not qualify as collateral but Virl Microfinance believed in my vision and approved my loan. I knew what l wanted to achieve and when you share a dream that you really believe you receive the support you need.
Because my machinery required 3 phase electricity that you can’t access from home, l had to rent a small warehouse in the Industrial area of Willowvale. As the business grew, we needed a bigger space so we then moved to Southerton Industrial Area. I also had to sell my personal car so that l could buy a van for deliveries at the factory.
The reality is that employment in Zimbabwe and globally is hard to secure at the moment. Most people who are lucky enough to secure employment are constantly barraged with the advice that they must keep their jobs. You were previously in formal employment yourself, yet you took a risk to set out on your own and start your own company. What would you say gave you the guts to take that plunge and what strategies did you put in place to ensure the business would be a success?
All l can say is that it was a leap of faith. l had an idea and a dream that l believed in. l had a comfortable job but l had to choose. Some family and friends thought it was senseless for me to leave a stable income to go and start a business. I was given advice to keep my job and do my business part time but the dream l had for my business was big. l haven’t reached where l dreamt I would be today but l am happy and l do not regret leaving my job. When l started l only had guys in the production flow. l had to do the procurement of raw materials, quality checks, marketing, sales, delivery of the product, collection of payments and all the other work. It was a huge task having to put on all those hats but because l believed in my dream l soldiered on. One strategy that really worked for me was re-adjusting my lifestyle to suit the stage my business was at since l was boot strapping. l didn’t have extra income so to grow the business l invested my profits back into the business. I also did a lot of cost management and lean start up.
You recently took part in this year’s edition of the Mandela Washington Fellowship in the U.S. and then spent 6 weeks at the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, studying business and entrepreneurship. What value did you derive from this experience and what were the major lessons you learnt from this opportunity?
I spent the most fruitful 6 weeks at Northwestern University with amazing people and won a business plan competition with a funding of $25000. My experience at Northwestern University can be summarized in to categories which are a) what l learnt about leadership and b) what l learnt about myself.
What l learnt about myself?
I learnt that l should get to know myself first before l can become a leader. I learnt the importance of self-assessment and that if I am to be successful in life l should define and know what l stand for as an individual. learnt to dig deeper, to be vulnerable and to seek assistance and feedback from others. I also learnt that words don’t mean anything but execution is the key. I also learnt that my word is my bond. I learnt to be humble – seeing all the successful people coming to speak to us taught me a great lesson on humility.
What l learnt about leadership?
This was an eye-opening journey for me. l realized that l had failed my team in so many ways. I hadn’t trusted them or given them the opportunity to challenge or question my decisions at my factory. l learnt that as a leader l should speak less, listen more, ask questions, and seek feedback. I learnt that one of the most important things as a leader is to lead yourself before you can lead others. I learnt that emotional intelligence would lead me to greater success and that clear communication is important
A huge portion of a successful business hinges on the ability to sell. I am going to put you in a spot and say imagine that I am a retailer, now; “Sell me your peanut butter”
Our peanut butter is natural and has no additives – you are not just buying a healthy spread when you buy NUTRIE PEANUT BUTTER but you are empowering women from our rural areas who are peanut farmers.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I wake up at 5am. I then do my morning devotions, go to the gym, do a school run then go to the factory. We have night shift, so l go there to assess production and dismiss staff. I reconcile our resources and ensure we have enough raw materials for the day. I then go out for deliveries.
Advice for young females aspiring to start their own small to medium enterprises?
- If you have an idea, act on it and never give up.
- Don’t procrastinate
- Always remember that every success is a result of a lesson learnt from failure. Challenge your destiny.
- Learn to celebrate every success no matter how small.
- Owning your own business is really hard work! Start small and take each day as it comes.
Morning or night? I am a morning person and l focus easily on a new day. I smell new opportunities and new challenges every morning. I believe every new day is an opportunity to start over.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order? Hillary Clinton and l would order a huge steak and a peanut butter smoothie.
I wish I knew how to… spend quality time with myself
African women are… the back bone of society
Zimbabwe is… a rich country with so many natural resources and a highly educated population. My home, my Zimbabwe.
Worst spending habit… spending money that you don’t have on things that you don’t need.
Best investment… real estate
Motivation in 3 words… believe, achieve, receive.
Above all pray, eat well and live a healthy life – eat NUTRIE PEANUT BUTTER