Mendy Lerato Lusaba is a Social Entrepreneur making changes in the domestic work industry.
She is the Founder of Chris and Geo Domestic Placement Agency which recruits, trains and places socio-economically disadvantaged women as domestic workers.
The innovative agency also offers unique housekeeping services of weekly maids for those that do not need full time stay in maids hence slowly disrupting the sector.
She also founded the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe which is a network of Zimbabwean maids with a focus on capacity building and advocacy work. DWAZ has members in Zimbabwe, South Africa and is growing daily.
In this article, she talks about how she took advantage of her background in HR to create more jobs by starting her own business.
Meet @mendylusaba - a Social Entrepreneur making changes in the domestic work industry and creating jobs in Zimbabwe. Click To Tweet
Tell us about your professional background?
I have a B.Sc. in Human Resources Management, a Diploma in Labour Law from the Institute of People Management and Post Graduate Diploma in Law from the University of Zimbabwe.
I’m also a Mandela Washington Fellow 2018 Alumni and a YALI RLC Southern Africa 2016 Alumni. I have done Entrepreneurship Training with Empretec, ACT in Africa. Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and Social Entrepreneurship training with the Udugu Institute.
So far, I have worked in the energy, mining, catering and hospitality industry in the Human Resources Department holding management positions before going into entrepreneurship full time.
I write articles for different publications about domestic work and I run a blog. I have written a handbook for domestic workers.
Because of my bubbly nature and being a motivator, I am often invited to speak at various women’s events nationally.
What led you to start the housekeeping business?
When I had my first child, I struggled with getting the “perfect” maid. In a space of 6 months, I had changed maids four times! I realized that it was very difficult to get the perfect maid when you needed them.
Upon further research, I discovered I was not alone. Majority of working women need a maid but struggle to get one on time.
I also realized that there were also so many women who needed jobs as domestic workers but did not know where to start. Coupled with my background in Human Resources Management, I realized I could provide a solution.
I simply had to bridge the gap between the employers and the employees, hence the birth of Chris and Geo. My work drives me and I have a great passion for what I do.
Running my own organization brings me great joy and seeing one woman’s’ life transformed by simply being a maid is enough reward. Seeing a previously disadvantaged child go back to school because her mother can now afford it is enough satisfaction.Business success is a combination and a recipe for many things - @mendylusaba Click To Tweet
Tell us about Chris and Geo
Chris and Geo is an organization that was formed with the family in mind. It recruits, trains and places socially and economically disadvantaged women as domestic workers.
It offers fulltime stay-in and stay-out maids and also has contract maids that are available on specific days to the clients. Chris and Geo offer on-the-job training for maids.
Through Chris and Geo, I realized there was more that goes in the sector. From working with the maids, I realized they were vulnerable and they also needed capacity building hence establishing the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe.
My work is more of a calling than anything else. Domestic workers are very important with almost 70% percent of urban households relying on the help of domestic workers. It is also, amongst one of the oldest professions. Unlike in developed countries, the profession is still informal and not officially recognized.
The sector is so behind with both the employers and employees lacking the professionalism required of any profession. This is why I do what I do, I am in it to change the game.
How does a normal working day go in your business?
My work is mostly about societal impact rather than monetary impact. Being your own boss means your workload is never normal! You do what needs to be done whenever it needs to be done.
Our business is heavily centered on convenience meaning a client must be able to call us any time when they need a maid. As such, every hour is a working hour for us.Being your own boss means your workload is never normal! You do what needs to be done whenever it needs to be done - @mendylusaba Click To Tweet
In Zimbabwe are people comfortable with strangers coming to their homes to clean? How have you managed client inhibitions?
Actually, in Zimbabwe majority of households have stay in maids. It has been like this for so many years. Families prefer having someone that stay within their homes.
Generally, Zimbabweans are open people and the family structure is very important. We have huge families and the extended family is usually a close family.
As such, it is not very difficult to have someone join the family. Our private space is so accommodating that we have few inhibitions about having someone in our homes.
It is only now that we are beginning to have formal distinctions with domestic work, Otherwise, culturally the maid is part of the family with titles like Aunty or Sister.
Now, people are beginning to have stayed out maids that do not stay with the family. This is why the domestic work sector is very huge in the country. It only lacks professionalism and formalization but it has been in existence since independence.
What has been your major challenge on your business journey? What can be done about it?
I know this is going to sound rehearsed and rhetoric but it is the truth. Capital is a challenge for many businesses and mine has not been exempted.
I did not start my business with any loan or grant or funding of any sort. As a result, my growth has been steady rather than spontaneous. This has its advantages and disadvantages. It allows me time to refine my business model but it also gives greater room to competition and effluxion by time.
I have managed to work around this by using the lean startup approach and also by ensuring I am innovative and relevant. It is about survival after all.
You recently returned from the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF), what would you say were and how will this impact your business.
MWF was such a great eye-opener and not only did it help me in my work but also in my personal life. Before leaving for America, I had my whole work plan drawn out and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
Imagine my shock upon getting to America when I realized that the playing field is totally different! Whereas in Zimbabwe, almost every urban house has a maid, in America, where I was, it was the opposite.
All the people I met and talked to did not have a maid, let alone a stay in maid! I was however very fortunate to meet up with one housekeeping business owner and we shared notes. I’ve also got a few great business ideas and I hope to even have a day-care in the future. I know I’m in the right direction.
Before leaving for MWF, I had started on contract housekeeping services which are not so common in the country. I was excited to learn that this is the norm in America and it reinforced the direction I was taking in business.
Although they have their own problems, domestic workers in America are heavily covered by legislation making the job a real formal profession. It is this kind of formalization I envision for the Zimbabwean and African domestic work sector.
What do you wish you knew before starting out in business
That passion alone is not enough, that capital alone is not enough, that education alone is not enough, that faith alone is not enough. Business success is a combination and a recipe for many things.
You need the right amounts of all these ingredients and strategically used for final success. It is not like what we see on TV or read in novels, they exclude the hard, dirty and painful parts of it all.
It is not even that glamorous at times. I wish I had known this all before I started my business.
What advice would you give to young African young women seeking to start businesses
Just do it!
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