Shamiso Ruzvidzo: Kusika Design Centre was born from pivoting my other businesses

Kusika means to create. We go beyond that, we design, create & develop @ShamisoRuze Click To Tweet

Thirty-four-year-old change practitioner, traveller, and foodie, Shamiso Catherine Ruzvidzo, relocated from Australia back to Zimbabwe in 2012. She had been in Australia for 12 years, where she did her degree in Information Technology and worked for Rio Tinto before finding her love and passion for the fashion and design sector.

She is the founder of Catherine Ruze, a boutique modelling agency which was first set up in Australia and later on moved to Zimbabwe. Catherine is also the founder of Fashion Weekend Zimbabwe and now Kusika Design Centre which is based in Doon Estate, the design district in Harare.

Kusika is a hub that supports the economic development of small businesses in the fashion and design sector. As if that is not enough, Catherine is the regional director of programs for a local NGO. She juggles these two passions with her everyday life.

From IT to fashion, why fashion?

I started in the fashion industry when I was 16. My mom sent me to Medusa, a modelling agency in Harare, where I did a modelling course and ended up modelling for them. That is how I plunged into fashion.

@ShamisoRuze started in the fashion industry when she was 16 at a modelling agency in Harare Click To Tweet

Fast forward years later, I was doing freelance work with photographers in Australia and I got introduced to local designers who I started working with. Australia really lifts up its local talent and this is where my love for local design and supporting local designers came from. I produced my first fashion show for Betty Tran, then Betty Sugar.

I just brought together a pool of models and publicists I was working with and we made it work. I realised that there are many designers wanting to see progress in their businesses but as start-ups, they normally don’t have the resources to hire models, or even create a full fashion show because they are putting all that they have into their collections. This idea gave birth to the Catherine Ruze modelling agency.

Betty Tran 4

When was Kusika birthed?

Kusika is a new initiative which was born from pivoting my other businesses; Catherine Ruze Modelling Agency and Fashion Weekend Zimbabwe (FWZ). It was officially birthed in July 2015. As an entrepreneur, you are always pivoting until you kind of get to that place where you feel like you have finally found the right model.

We had outgrown what we thought we wanted to do with FWZ and therefore took a step back. We then decided to slowly transition into Kusika using FWZ as the face. Fashion Weekend Zimbabwe paved way for Kusika; we will not be doing annual events anymore but we will be doing pop-up shops instead. We have hosted a variety already, both in and outside Zimbabwe. In 2016 we did four pop-up shops and this year we are looking at six.


Why Kusika as a name?

Kusika means to create so it’s all about creation. But there is more to creating and creations. People can create, then what? We go beyond that, we design, create and develop.

When one looks around Zimbabwe, everyone is creating something but a lot of people are copying creations that have been done by various other people.

So what does Kusika do?

We are pretty much a design incubator. By design I mean if you use your hands to create something, then you definitely fall under our mandate. We are trying to support the economic development of designers and artisans in Zimbabwe. It’s a 50/50 partnership where we put our resources to get the product line going. We work with them on three levels:

  1. Production/development of their collections, be it clothing, home décor, bags, and accessories. We provide artisans with access to information on what’s trending, how the market is like etc.
  2. Training- on product quality and how to run a business. We want Kusika to be a design hub where people come to learn new skills and get inspired to use their hands for livelihood. One may have had skills in the past but times and people’s needs change. So we are bringing in new skills and ways to develop these old skills. Currently, the products we have been exposed to are not very impressive and therefore we saw a huge gap on quality assurance.
  3. Marketing, the final level is taking the products to markets. At the moment Zimbabwe is lacking a market. There is not enough local consumption for someone to live off their talent but we are trying to change that narrative, to say to them, no you can use design to pay your children school fees, to put food on the table.

So Kusika is a place you come to create and we help you to take it a step further.


How have people received this type of business in Zimbabwe?

Kusika is a medium scale business and our target market is not local. Our customers are people outside Zimbabwe who currently have lesser problems than we do and have a different appreciation of the product. Zimbabweans have bigger problems at the moment and furnishing their homes and themselves is not one of them.

How big is the team?

We have four local people working at Kusika and other external contractors including one buying agent who is based in France. She is the one who helps source out the buyers.

What are some of the challenges of running a business in Zimbabwe?

Remaining inspired in present day Zimbabwe is a challenge, it’s very easy to be stagnant. The world is moving so fast right now in terms of innovation, and unfortunately, we are being left behind.  It’s important to step out of Zimbabwe from a leadership point of view to get inspirations, new ideas, and concepts.

Remaining inspired in Zimbabwe is a challenge, it’s very easy to be stagnant @ShamisoRuze Click To Tweet

The hijacking of concepts or business ideas is another huge challenge here. You can start on something and the next moment you realise everyone is doing the same thing. We don’t allow ourselves to fully develop concepts that are solely ours. I wish people would believe in their concepts more and not hijack other people’s concepts. Maybe if copyright was a huge thing in Zimbabwe then we would not have these kinds of issues. Just take a look at the streets of Harare, that’s a perfect example of people hijacking concepts. You can meet five people in the street selling the same thing.

Then there’s access to capital. If we had access to capital like other young people in Africa, we would be able to develop our businesses a lot faster and be able to grow them quicker. In Kenya for example, entrepreneurs are being supported by the government, which is huge. It takes a lot of time and relationship building to grow a really great idea.

What more can the government do to support entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe?

Open up more capital channels for young people. It is very difficult to access finance because we have ridiculous interest rates. And by the way, capital doesn’t have to be loans. We can have crowd-sourcing, set up government structures or successful leaders who can plunge in.

We need to build on what I like to call the knowledge economy. Many people do not know how to run their businesses but they are starting businesses anyway. 70% of these people don’t even have a business plan but I believe there are so many leaders and government entities that can help people run their businesses. It doesn’t necessarily have to be government but as I mentioned before a supporting plan or structure put in place will do.

Many people do not know how to run their businesses but they are starting businesses Click To Tweet

What lessons or advice would you give your younger self?

It’s important to get an education on something that you can fall back on while building your passion. Know where you are going and what you want to achieve. What value your business going to bring?

Stay in formal employment longer, this is where you learn some of the ropes of running your own business.

Be wise about how you use your money. Don’t waste so much money on the branding of your business, instead use that money to understand your business.

Don’t waste so much money on branding, use that money to understand your business @ShamisoRuze Click To Tweet


How do you stay true to yourself?

I have a lot of quiet time to myself and I make sure that I start my day with prayer. I exercise a lot too. This gives me an opportunity to step away from everything. I have realised that I do not have to carry things with me to sleep.

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What womens month means to us as Zimbabwean women in business

Celebrating #womensmonth & what it means to be a #MotherlandMogul in Zimbabwe Click To Tweet

Women’s month means different things to different people and cultures. For me, it means celebrating each and every woman’s business and individual achievements; as well as our efforts together as a collective. It is about understanding the power of WE, which signifies collective leadership, I am because we are. In Shona, we would say, “munhu munhu nekuda kwevanhu”, I am a woman because of other women that surround me.

Here is what a few women had to say about being #MotherlandMoguls in Zimbabwe today.

Huge responsibilities

Tariro MakinaAs a 30-year-old woman living in Zimbabwe in 2017, my surroundings are constantly reminding me of the huge responsibilities I have as a citizen of this state. My actions right now are helping shape the future of this land in one way or another.

I am a woman accountable to future generations so I want to make sure that I leave a legacy of authentic beauty, love, strength, hard work and integrity. I really don’t care anymore how hard I have to fight to achieve that.

Tariro Makina: Twenty47 Virtual Assistant

Expressing creativity

Enny EthnicWomen’s month means celebrating the calm intelligence, quiet confidence, and simple elegance that’s in every woman.

As a Zimbabwean woman, especially, women’s month means celebrating the freedom to express my creativity, the privilege to showcase my brand and culture, and the power to follow my dreams.

– Matipa Mutsemi: EnnyEthnic

A woman’s place is at the top

IMG-20170224-WA0015To be a woman is to be a creator. I am the ‘wombman’ that brings life into existence. To be a woman is to embrace your instincts and trust them. A woman is pure love, and only thrives to see love which is why it is difficult for a woman to see evil whilst immersed in it.

A woman can go through the unimaginable because they see the inner love and not what is being presented on the external.  A  woman’s place is right up at the top. And then peace will prevail.

– Nonku Jijita: Love Nonku

Wake up every day with a sense of purpose


As business owners, we would like to remind other women this; “You have to wake up every day with a sense of purpose and follow your dreams”.

You are going to hear a lot of no’s, don’t let that distract you from achieving your goals, persevere and define your own destiny.

– Mercy Nyamangwanda: EnnyEthnic

Business owners need to wake up every day with a renewed sense of purpose Click To Tweet

Shaping the future of Zimbabwe

Shamiso 1 (1)Women’s month for me calls me to reflect on what it means to be a young Zimbabwean leader, as a woman in this country. It challenges me to examine my values, not just as Shamiso but within the decisions I make with my business.

Are my decisions helping to shape our country? Am I intentionally helping to mentor the next generation of women leaders? Am I involved in policy decisions that are being made on a higher level, that affect our tomorrow?

This month is particularly important, especially in the lead up to Zimbabwe’s elections next year. It challenges me to think over if I’m doing my part as a young Zimbabwean woman and leader to help shape what is coming next.

Shamiso Ruzvidzo: Kusika Design

Let’s stop making apologies

As we commemorate women’s month, it’s a time for us to look back and celebrate our victories, and restrategize for our shortfalls. One thing that is glaring for me is the fact that we as women, need to stop making apologies for being women, movers and shakers in our respective professional fields and adoring mothers and wives to cap it all.

Let’s stop making apologies for coming up with a brilliant idea during a brainstorming meeting. Let’s stop making apologies for getting that promotion those two other male colleagues were eyeing. Let’s stop making apologies for taking that well-deserved break from the hustles of work and family life. Let’s stop making excuses for being professional women who are also mothers, who need to occasionally be there for their children at school matches to cheer them on. Let’s stop making excuses for not being there at family functions because we had to attend weekend classes for that course we have always wanted to do.

This month, to my fellow sisters in the tech field, let us remember we don’t owe anyone any excuses for putting on heels and make-up because it does not make us any less tech. As women, let us continue to build networks that will strengthen us in both business and social life. Let’s continue to be pillars of strength for each other, and let’s always cheer a sister on!

Joy Makumbe: Founder Marjorlic Construction and The Joy Makumbe Trust