Saturday, April 13, 2024

See How Paula Marowa is Reviving Zimbambwe’s Leather Sector

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Paula Marowa holding a bag made by Rukanda Satisfaction at her leather-based store in Zimbabwe. Photograph: Mike Saburi, Chook Story Company

As buyers enter Rukanda Satisfaction leather-based retailer in Harare’s posh Eastlea suburb, they’re instantly enveloped by the charming aroma of contemporary leather-based. Stepping in additional, they’re surrounded by meticulously crafted leather-based merchandise. The presentation of impeccable craftsmanship, along with the earthy, woodsy scent evokes a sense of magnificence and opulence. Patrons are attended personally by assistants properly versed in leather-based craft and who can present distinctive perception into every merchandise’s detailing and historical past.

This high-end expertise is a far cry from the early lifetime of the shop’s 28-year-old proprietor, Paula Marowa.

Orphaned at 9, Marowa all the time needed to work for a dwelling. She helped an aunt promote merchandise at a flea market till her teenage years after which, as quickly as she may, she branched out on her personal and began sourcing items from Mozambique to promote in Zimbabwe for a revenue.

Prepared to attempt a variety of enterprise concepts, Marowa first encountered leather-based by means of an skilled craftsman who had made an excellent dwelling from his enterprise.

“The story of Rukanda Satisfaction began in an unconventional method,” she stated. “It was by no means a childhood ardour, however an opportunity-driven enterprise. I began Rukanda in 2018 by means of intergenerational transferring of expertise.”

Paula Marowa with an worker at her workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Mike Saburi, Chook Story Company

That switch of expertise started with the encounter with the craftsman Marowa nonetheless refers to as ‘Mr. Sithole‘, making leather-based merchandise below a tree at his home within the dormitory city of Chitungwiza close to the capital Harare. The expertise left such an impression that Marowa later returned and satisfied him to accomplice along with her. Sithole would deal with the manufacturing whereas she managed gross sales and different day-to-day enterprise.

“What I’d do is I’d go to the shopper after which promote the product, get a deposit, which might cowl the price of manufacturing to Mr Sithole. Then I ship the product to the shopper after which get the steadiness as my revenue,” stated Marowa.

An absence of capital meant that she needed to wait a while till she may develop the subsequent section of her plan, nevertheless.

“Once I registered the corporate I continued with the identical method of operation for about two years earlier than opening a retailer in Harare,” she stated.

Right now, her enterprise has turn out to be a acknowledged nationwide model able to competing with established gamers out there and Marowa is amongst a crop of younger entrepreneurs respiration a brand new lease of life into Zimbabwe’s once-vibrant leather-based sector.

Whereas Rukanda Satisfaction now employs about eight folks, as she famous in a 2023 interview, scaling has been tough attributable to a basic shortage within the nation of professional leather-based craftspeople. The folks she employed needed to study from scratch and there have been many errors made.

Paula Marowa giving directions to an worker at her workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Mike Saburi, Chook Story Company

“I bear in mind we made a bag that was very flappy and we had considered one of our purchasers complain on social media. As a enterprise individual that just about took me out of enterprise as a result of it was the primary time that as an organization we had public humiliation,” Marowa shared within the interview.

Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic introduced some disruption to the enterprise, manufacturing picked up a lot afterwards that she was in a position to buy some machines. Additional progress and buyer expectations additionally prompted her to widen her product portfolio.

“We moved from belts to wallets, from wallets to baggage, after which we got here up with a journey assortment of duffle baggage and satchels,” she defined.

Rukanda Satisfaction’s main promoting level is with the ability to customise merchandise to the precise wants of the client.

“Leather-based is a lifetime product, one thing that you would be able to reside with ceaselessly. So we attempt to give that have to our purchasers, and we all the time attempt to be sure that we really feel the expertise earlier than we give it out to our purchasers,” stated Marowa, who now has a good larger ambition for the corporate.

“Our imaginative and prescient is to develop, develop and be progressive sufficient to ship outstanding actual leather-based merchandise throughout the borders of Africa and past,” she stated.

A defining second of her journey was being chosen for the 2023 Forbes Underneath 30 Summit Africa, a conference of Africa’s prime younger entrepreneurs and game-changers.

Paula Marowa and a store attendant have a look at a bag made by Rukanda Satisfaction at a leather-based store in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Mike Saburi, Chook Story Company

Whereas the native market has been promising, she stated the primary problem younger entrepreneurs face in Zimbabwe is securing funding.

“I’ve grown Rukanda Satisfaction to this stage by means of bootstrapping, now we have simply been reinvesting the income into the enterprise in order that it continues to develop,” she stated.

There may be definitely no finish to the chance. Zimbabwean leather-based is world-renowned and the nation possesses a aggressive benefit within the international leather-based worth chain because of its extensive livestock base.

The nation misplaced its place within the international leather-based market over the previous twenty years attributable to crippling financial challenges which resulted within the closure of main firms that employed 1000’s of employees. Nevertheless, the sector is now on the rebound and retrenched leather-based employees are behind the sector’s new shoots, in keeping with Clement Shoko, Chairman of the Zimbabwe Leather-based Growth Council.

“When you’ve gotten a expertise base pretty much as good as what now we have within the leather-based worth chain, probabilities of establishing new factories, new firms, it’s very simple. The one problem is that we’d like entry to finance, as soon as now we have acquired entry to finance, life turns into very simple,” stated Shoko.

“We’ve got acquired alternatives which might be coming our method. We’ve got acquired extra shares by way of the skins. Zimbabwe is an animal nation, very lovely skins, very huge skins, the one problem is that we have to add worth on these,” he stated, including that younger entrepreneurs coming into the business are innovating and respiration a brand new lease of life into the once-vibrant sector.

The continent produces roughly 210 million sq. meters of leather-based yearly, which accounts for about 4% of the worldwide manufacturing. With a number of the largest herds on the planet, that share has loads of room to develop. Marowa too.

Story Credit score: Mike Saburi for Chook Story Company

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