Cynthia Jones born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She worked as a banker at some of the most reputable banks in Zimbabwe, some of which are Banc Abc and Nedbank, until she found her passion in 2006, which is baking.
She never took qualifications in baking or culinary art, rather, she studied Marketing at the University of South Africa. Cynthia is a mother of 2 boys, and she holds 2 awards with Megafest Business Awards held in Zimbabwe.
In this article, she shares her experience switching careers and learning to manage a diverse team.
I started off with part-time baking after work and weekends, and because I love baking, I wanted to do give my all, and I gave myself 5 years to make it work and if it didn’t I would go back to full-time employment.
It’s 6 years to the day I left employment and I am happy I did. Now I do what I am passionate about and get paid for it too. I bake for all occasions and have also started teaching baking as well and specialize in cake art.
What are the Dos and Donts’ of transitioning
Do what you are passionate about and give it your all.
Do a SWAT analysis of the business you want to do first.
I knew baking was for me because it calms me. I can wake up a 3 am and still enjoy doing what I do
Not to do:
Don’t just jump into a business because it worked for someone else
Don’t expect someone to do it for you. You have to be there 24/7 for the business to work. Not just delegating.
How did your prior work experience help in building your brand?
My experience as an employee helped me understand and appreciate the team that I have. Also, working in a bank was definitely an advantage as it has helped me understand my business and be able to manage and multi-task.
I am where I am because of the experience I got from there.
How have you managed to work with diverse teams?
I have grown up in a diverse community learning with people from all walks of life so it has been easy for me to deal with diverse culture.
My husband is Welsh (England). Which made me appreciate people from all over which helps me to able to deal with my clients and their cultural differences by doing so they appreciate my efforts.
Having worked in different sectors and finally finding passion in baking, what are your major tips to managing a diverse team?
Managing a diverse team is all about understanding the unique attributes that individuals respectively possess.
It is about taking note and recognizing contributions made by different people and understanding the different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs, once a leader understands this, the work environment becomes conducive.
Here are some steps you can take to managing a diverse team:
1. Make sure that your employees feel valued and included in planning which in turn leads to more contributions from them.
2. Getting to know each of your employees as an individual. Recognize each person’s unique talents and abilities.
3. Communicate with each employee and always giving back feedback.
4. Treat each of your employees fairly and equally.
5. Make sure that each person is participating equally on the team.
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International consultants working on finding sustainable solutions for social-economic problems on the continent, are more and more often roles fulfilled by our own young and brightest.
Meet three young inspiring ladies from Kenya, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe who made their way into Dalberg – a firm that is rapidly expanding across the continent – to contribute to social impact and sustainable development through consulting work.
Edel Were is a Consultant and Co-Lead of the Youth Employment and Education Practice at Dalberg Advisors. The 27-year-old is based in the Nairobi office and has been in Dalberg for 3 years.
Within her time at Dalberg, she has built a range of experience in the youth employment and education space in Africa. Her work has supported the Conrad N. Hiltonn Foundation, MasterCard Foundation, Government of Rwanda, NGO’s and more.
Christelle Nayandi is 23 years old and she recently joined Dalberg Advisors as an analyst. Prior to this, she worked on different social impact-focused projects in Africa.
She was a research assistant in the Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics project in Kumasi, Ghana, where her and her teammates conducted research on Pediatric Tuberculosis in hospitals and generated ideas on appropriate point of care diagnostic devices using available resources.
Fadzai Chitiyo joined Dalberg as an Analyst in the Johannesburg office in 2017 and has made immense strides in her career, having been promoted twice in less than two years!
She is now Strategy Consultant at Dalberg, with broad development sector expertise across agriculture, financial inclusion, healthcare, mobile for development, impact investing and inclusive business growth. She has conducted several businesses cases and go-to-market strategies for banks in DRC, Uganda and Zambia.
In this interview, Edel , Christelle, and Fadzai share their tips of how to get your foot into the door with an international consultancy firm while in your twenties.
Tell us about the competitive route towards being hired by a global consultancy…
Chrisetelle:It involved a lot of hours spent on studying for case interviews, practicing and honing my structured problem-solving skills.
Fadzai:Next to the case studies, consultancies are hiring more and more for company culture and global fit, with some building relationships with specific clubs or faculties on university campuses.
It is a good idea to join some of these clubs, so you can gain exposure to current employees at the consultancy you are interested in, whilst also positioning yourself well to be a potential candidate
Edel:I had expressed within my network my interest to engage in actionable problem solving, especially in the development sector, therefore people gave me guidance and how to prepare.
I hadn’t really been exposed to consulting before, so resources such as this and this, but also videos like this one, really helped me.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of life as a consultant?
Christelle: Working as a consultant is great because you get to work on many projects in different sectors and areas. But traveling often can be challenging because you don’t usually get a lot of time to spend with family and friends back home.
Fadzai:The exposure to some of the top executives and development leaders on the continent or globe position you well to take your career anywhere you like.
However, life as a consultant is also a life on the road. It is important you ensure you can achieve some work life balance and maintain the relationships that matter in your life.
Edel: Working with people who are constantly refining their problem-solving skills has helped me build my skills and knowledge quite quickly.
I work in a variety sectors (health, education, agriculture, energy etc.). At the same time, it can be difficult to specialize in one sector or practice area as you’re expected to a be a generalist.
Have you worked on any projects which contributed to the overall development of Africa?
Christelle:As I recently joined, I am working on my first project! The bulk of my work involves doing a market assessment for an international education institution here in Rwanda.
I do this in order to identify needs and gaps in the market and see how it can better position itself to address them.
Fadzai: My most exciting project was to design and develop a commercial business case and go-to-market strategy for a leading bank in Zambia.
They wanted to reach 30,000 small holder farmers with business financial services for them to graduate to emerging farmers. The bank is looking to implement soon which is exciting!
Edel: One of the projects I really liked working on was supporting the Mastercard Foundation and the Government of Rwanda. The project focused on rethinking 21st century skills training for your young people in the country by technical vocational training programs.
After involving young people, businesses and institutions in some of the most marginalized districts in the country, we recommended a couple of focus areas as well as an implementation plan. The project is being implemented as we speak!
What advice would you give to other young African women hoping to join an international consultancy?
Christelle: It is important to start practicing and become more aware of structured problem-solving. There is a wealth of material on the internet on how to improve this skill.
Also, networking is very important. Take every opportunity possible to meet up and talk to people in this industry.
Fadzai:I would suggest doing internships during your university holidays (either in a global consulting firm or any other professional services company) By doing this, you can prepare for the high pressure and fast work environment that consultants work under.
This skill will help you to start building some basic research and problem-solving skills.
Edel: With a focus on development consulting, I would say start familiarizing yourself with the sector, read up on important conversations and decisions being made in the space.
Practice the skills, try and apply for internships and if that’s not possible read up on case studies and how to solve them.
How do you make a name for yourself as a young woman in a consultancy office?
Christelle: Be proactive in your everyday activities. The reason why you are there is to help the company fulfil its mission while you also aim for professional development in the process. So own it and be open-minded.
Make an effort to go out there and meet people who have been in the firm longer than you because they often have great advice on what you should keep in mind in your everyday activities.
Fadzai: You don’t go in trying to make a name for yourself! Instead, be willing to ask for help, fail fast and learn quickly. Identify mentors and advisors that can help you in your journey.
Most people tend to overlook the Project Managers and look for a Partner. But you will typically interact more with managers and they will have a clearer line of sight on your professional development.
Edel: I think you should follow the things you are passionate about. Volunteer in internal initiatives and topics that you find interesting. The people around you are a resource, try to engage with people on these topics across the firm, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Also, I’d say participate in industry events, try and get your thoughts and opinions published, and make people aware of your interests.
As a seasoned businesswoman, Lola Denga has been in the beauty space managing her own business for the last nine years. She offers exclusive services that can be enjoyed from either her own home or that of the clients. Her services include Swedish Massages and manicures among others.
Over the years Lola noticed that these beauty treatments enhanced women’s self-esteem and decided to take a step further. Instead of just focusing on external beauty she decided to write a devotional called G.LO.W (God’s love overwhelms women) to helpwomen intensify their inner beauty.
In a 7-day devotional, Lola helps women foster a deeper connection with God and in doing so, focus on their internal beauty.
She believes that beauty has to come from within and by connecting to the maker, God himself you will achieve wholeness.
What inspired you to open a beauty business?
From the time I was 14 years and went and got my first manicure, I have always wanted to be in the beauty industry. After going to beauty school, I’d go to certain places and see the standards were not the same as those taught in school.
That’s literally where my passion started; I really wanted to bring beauty’s standard and dignity back. I wanted to create an ambience where clients would feel like they are getting the best service and are relaxed.
Beauty school focuses largely on the outside. Why did you decide to go a step further with your devotional?
I realized that after speaking to more women, a lot of them were dealing with inner issues. Yes, they were coming to enhance their outside beauty which consequently led to a temporary sense of confidence. But, the truth is, only when the inside is in harmony with the outside, do you enjoy beauty to its maximum.
What has opening a business taught you about yourself?
It has taught me that I really love people. It has also helped me showcase my creativity and organization skills. I have managed to pick up a lot of other skills through this experience.
What setbacks have you faced while starting and continuing your entrepreneurial journey?
There’s been a couple. It has taken me longer to get off the ground as I personally finance everything. I’d be saving to try and buy equipment by doing other jobs on the side.
Also, people’s attitudes have also posed a challenge. They are becoming more receptive to luxury beauty but largely it is seen more as an unnecessary indulgence rather than a necessity. It has made me see a gap in the market for education.
Educating people on everything from the healing properties of beauty treatments like a massage. I also educate people on how a good regular self-care routine can help reduce stress levels and create a work-life balance.
Where do you seek encouragement during those moments?
I am fortunate to have a strong support system. I have my parents, my husband and my friends and definitely my relationship with God.
How important do you think a relationship with God is to an entrepreneur?
Honestly, it’s very important. Number one, it will keep you sane! There are a lot of things you’ll come across that you didn’t expect to come across. Business competition notwithstanding, there are people you expected support from that disappoint you.
Having a strong relationship with God ensures you know that this is not just a business idea. It is actually a gift and you need to understand that you are using it to worship Him and to impact lives.
At this point, your business should have a purpose and should not just be to make money. The purpose part makes sure that you don’t give up easily.
What are your proudest moments during your nine years as a businesswoman?
One of them was when I published my book. I was very proud of that! Over the years I have been involved in numerous photoshoots as a makeup artist. Those were enjoyable experiences.
I think overall, every day has something that makes you feel like it’s worth it. Even the small things like when a client expresses their gratitude are enough for me.
Do you feel that in Zimbabwe there are enough structures put in place to assist women to open businesses?
Until recently no. But so far, it looks promising. There are quite a few women in business organizations that are starting. The government is also coming in with funding. I am excited to see how this will translate for future business owners.
As a seasoned businesswoman, what are you doing to support women in the entrepreneurial space?
I like to host prayer lounges. During this event, I keep in touch with women in business and keep encouraging them. I also offer career guidance tests if people are unsure of which direction they should be heading in.
I definitely do want to grow these ventures and I have intentions of being a facilitator and speaker in this year.
How do you balance it all?
I’d say time management, though I am not perfect at it yet! Prayer too, because that’s where I get my energy from. I also believe in incorporating things that you love to do even if it’s just reading a book. You need that time to distress and reflect.
That’s how you balance and you don’t end up breaking down or cracking. You have to make sure you get that allocated time for just being you and not thinking about business, not thinking about being a wife and just zoning out.
How do you unwind?
I like journaling, sometimes I’ll just journal for no reason. Occasionally, I enjoy either reading a book or watching a chick flick with a bowl of ice cream. I’m simple like that!
Definitely, I do try to spoil myself when I can. I go and get pedicures and foot massages done by someone else.
What are your top five tips for achieving wholeness?
1. You need to discover your strengths and weakness and accept them!
2.To realize your dreams, set goals and timelines for yourself.
3. Check your relationships with God, family and friends. Make sure that if there are any gaps, try to fix them. Also, let go of things that hurt as they will only hold you back.
4. Work on your self~esteem and general image. Once you find your personal style, you will avoid the pressure to follow trends and be a certain person.
5. Do stuff for others. Sometimes when we are hyper-focused on ourselves we can become closed off. Find something you enjoy doing that will bring impact to someone’s life.
Chantal Fraser is a fashion designer and house singer based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She started her fashion label Chante Clothing in 2010 as a side hustle and transitioned it to full time in 2014.
Her clients comprise of everyone from local celebrities, to brides and bridesmaids and any young lady wanting to look chic and well put together.
Chantal also works with locally based international brands like Edgars which is part of the Woolworths Group of companies.
Following the family tradition, Chantal finally decided to venture into music in 2017 and released her single Better than Yesterday.
When did you fall in love with fashion?
I’ve always had a passion for it since I was young – like seriously young. My passion started with creating beadwork and eventually sketching fashion ideas.
What gave you the courage to pursue Chante Clothing full time?
Passion full stop! My passion was burning so much that I just could not ignore it. I was miserable, working and doing other things. Even though I was getting paid well, I just didn’t have the passion.
I said to myself, if others can dive into their passions and do it, why can’t I?
What setbacks did you have during that transition period?
Definitely, finances. I was jumping into an unknown business. Yes, I had passion but obviously, I was still trying to weave my way through it.
In addition, I had to patiently grow my clientele which took a lot longer than I anticipated. When people are committed to their designer you know that’s it. It is hard to convince them to try someone new.
Before setting up Chante Clothing, what were you doing and how did it help you later on?
I was doing accounts. I hated it! But for some reason, I’d find myself doing accounts in jobs. But when I did switch careers, I began looking at design as more than just a hobby – but a legitimate way of making an income. This made establishing the business easier.
Do you feel like there are enough structures that help women build a business?
Yes and no. There is still a mindset that it depends on what the trade is. Some people don’t look at design as a business; they still see it as a plaything. But if there are women seeking financial assistance for something like chickens they are able to source funds much easier than us. I believe that there is a bias against fashion to some extent.
Have you had any mentors help you in your entrepreneurial journey?
Yes, I have. I’m privileged to know loads of people in the same business as me. My fiancé has been in the fashion industry much longer than I have. Since we collaborated on C and C Clothing, I have been able to learn a lot from him and his support.
I also have friends who helped me learn to sew. While I did have the passion, I needed to acquire the skill. This led me to camp at a friend’s house and eventually learn how to sew. I really appreciate her for doing that for me.
What has opening a business taught you about yourself?
It’s taught me that I can have discipline when it comes to money lol. Initially, I didn’t think I would be this disciplined, but opening a business had really exposed me to some of my strengths.
What do you want Chante Clothing to represent as a brand?
I want it to represent elegance and style.
It’s about bringing out the inner you. It’s about genuinely feeling confident and beautiful and not conforming to what people say is the latest trend. That’s what my business is all about!
Who are your style or fashion icons?
I really like David Tlale and his tenacity. Dolce and Gabbana are also inspiring as they are a team like my fiancé and I. We look up to them. If they can do it, so can we!
You currently have a single out, Better Than Yesterday. How did you get into singing and why a motivational track specifically?
My parents are actually musicians, they had a band ages ago. I didn’t choose music, music chose me! It was in the blood!
I’ve always had the passion and have been singing from forever. When I released my track, I chose motivational music because there’s a world out there that is extremely confused. A lot of people do not know who they are really.
If media says this is the style everyone moves to that. No one has a backbone to stand on. So, with my motivational music, I hope to inspire people to be who they are no matter what situations they are going through.
The themes vary but basically, it’s about you being you being proud of who you are!
So where did you get your obviously innate sense of confidence?
I think I got it from my parents (Not I think, I know!) and especially my mum. She was a very bold person and I learnt a lot from her.
I was fortunate to have parents that allowed us to be who we wanted to be. No matter what you wanted to do they supported you all the way.
What advice can you give about being true to yourself and following your dreams?
Every child is born with a dream, and as time goes on, people that surround you can slowly discourage you.
Don’t forget what that first love was. Go back to it and don’t allow anyone to stand in your way. Even if it seems hard just keep going, keep at it because at the end of the day, that’s what you were born to do.
There’s nothing as depressing as doing something because it’s a trend or because family is pressuring you. Misery is the most disheartening thing ever. Indulge your passion and you’ll get there eventually.
How do balance two careers (and a personal life!)?
It can get difficult at times. What I’ve learnt to do especially with two careers is put timelines and plan to do specific things within certain time frames. Planning is essential.
I go as far as saying when I get home, there will be no work talk but it can definitely get hectic.
What does success look like to you at the end? How will you know you have achieved your dreams?
Success is when I can look back at my life and say well-done Chanty and I’m happy and I have tried everything. If you haven’t tried it all how would you look back and truly be satisfied?
That’s where I find success even in failure. Failures can be a success because you made the effort. You don’t want to have a what if in your mind. What ifs are horrible!
Success should be about inner satisfaction and being happy. It’s not something that can be equated to a particular amount of money or how many likes you get on Facebook or how many people follow you on Instagram. It’s about self-contentment and being able to say at the end of it I tried it all.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
For weeks on end, Africa has been celebrated across continents. There has been a glorious showcase of its beauty, wealth, culture, resilience and diversity, on screen.
From both young people and the people, many around the world have come out to embrace the African heritage. The Wakanda fever has seen people dressing in African fabric, rocking natural and bald hairstyles, and chanting Xhosa battle cries.
But, beyond the outstanding representation of African culture, the Black Panther production also featured award-winning actors of African descent such as Kenya’sLupita Nyong’o, Zimbabwe’s Danai Gurira, and Uganda’s Daniel Kaluuya.
Currently, Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor is writing the ‘Black Panther: Long Live the King’ comic book. Using her unique brand of storytelling, Nnedi hopes to inspire others to re-create the African narrative.
With a worldwide box office record or $897 million according to Forbes Magazine, Black Panther has had a phenomenal influence on the world. Originally a comic book, this story has changed the narrative of black characters in comic books and in the media. And instead of the typical American superman, we are now seeing an African, black, superhero!
But this is not it! Other than T’Challa’s superhero skills, we see women who do more justice to #girlpower than Wonder Woman or Cat Woman ever would. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Ramonda (Angela Basset) and Shuri (Letitia Wright), showcase the strength and power of women who slay!
Writing about women who slay is something that Nnedi is familiar with. Her award-winning Afrofuturistic novels combine culture and science to break the limits and the usual narrative of girls can do.
This passion is what led her to bring her unique brand of storytelling to Wakanda land. As the latest writer for this Marvel comic series, Nnedi seeks to remind us that our stories as Africans, as women and as superheroes, need to be heard.
In changing the African narrative, we help the world recognize that Africa can create solutions towards the world’s development. But more importantly, we showcase the depth and diversity of the African people and their heritage.
Finally, through her contribution to Black Panther, Nnedi hopes to challenge people to rearrange their thinking. It is possible to create a new Africa. By telling these stories of Africa’s great future and her present achievements, we will create this new world that others have no option but to believe in!
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
The Africa Matters Initiative (AMI) is a youth-led organization dedicated to creating spaces for African expression and robust dialogue by embracing our complex identities and history through online platforms, workshops, and summits rooted in ‘Afrocentricity’.
Lead by black women, AMI empowers young Africans to reject the notion that Africa is only corrupt and poor. They are changing the narrative by re-shaping the way we look at Africa, cultivating active citizenship and leadership in all spaces.
AMI has a three-part mandate: Change the African Narrative, create platforms for critical engagement, and accountable media reporting
What inspired the start of Africa matters Initiative?
On the 7th January 2015, the world was in chaos as writers at Charlie Hebdo in Paris fell victim to a grisly terror attack.
Social media campaigns flared up with people from around the world proudly proclaiming #jesuischarlie. While this solidarity made many feel that perhaps there was some hope, after all, the global outpouring of love for Paris made the deafening silence surrounding the Baga attacks in Nigeria that was much more damning.
Days after the attacks in Paris, Boko Haram carried out a massacre in Baga, but the news cycle left it relatively unreported.
In addition to the media’s silence, too many fellow Africans also remained silent. This is because many African youths have bought into the negative notions of Africa as poor, corrupt and hopeless.
Africa has the youngest population in the world with over 200 million youth between 15-24. So what happens when the youth become despondent?
Who are its initiators and for how long has the initiative been in existence?
AMI was founded by Farai Mubaiwa and Reanne Olivier in April 2015.
Both Mubaiwa and Olivier are passionate black women who are actively changing the African narrative in their own spaces and aim to empower African youth to also make tangible change.
How are Africa matters beneficial and useful to young people?
Many young Africans have bought into the notion of African inferiority and Africa Matters aims to change this by facilitating the process of unlearning and learning.
Africa has the youngest population in the world (especially the female population), and for youth to be empowered and to empower the continent, we must unlearn negative notions and re-shape how we see our continent and its contributions.
What makes Africa Matters beneficial and useful, is our aim at changing the African Narrative for Africa to Matter. We as an initiative are taking an active approach to not only creating awareness about embracing one’s identity but teaching them why and how to do so in their own uniqueness.
We are an organization that is unapologetic in grappling with difficult conversations and using these tough spaces and histories as a springboard of encouragement for African youth.
In what countries are Africa Matters Initiative present, and how can interested people become a part of the initiative?
AMI has a strong global reach on our social media platforms especially in over ten countries in the continent.
Many of our community members span from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, United States and the United Kingdom.
We intend on expanding our physical reach throughout the continent. For those of you are interested in forming part of our global community please feel free to apply here.
What platforms does Africa Matters Initiative use to fulfill its mandate?
Africa Matters uses four platforms to fulfill its mandate:
Online engagement through opinion pieces by Africa Matters writers or the sharing of news articles
Hosting summits to engage on specific topics with various crucial stakeholders
Presenting workshops on African leadership, feminisms, and youth empowerment
Giving school talks on youth empowerment and the role young people need to play in shaping Africa
Our end goal is for African youth and the diaspora to be empowered to change the narrative by actively bettering society while embracing Afrocentricity. Get involved in leading the change now.
Is the organization adopting any unique approaches to changing the narratives about Africa?
We try as much as possible to partner with various organizations who share similar values and visions as we do.
This is unique because it is key to our growth as African organizations as a whole, for us to recognize that there is value in collaboration. This is something often referred to as creating ‘shared-value’.
By working together, we share resources, knowledge, and networks. Africa Matters has found various strategic partnerships that have given us access spaces that we would not have gained access to without the partnership.
Have there been any difficulties so far with achieving the initiative’s purpose?
A difficulty that we face is not being physically accessible to our audience due to lack of funding. Over the years we have been self-sustained and to fully achieve our mandate of hosting summits, works and school talks it is important for us to conduct these platforms in person or have a full-time representative in countries to do so.
Please share some of the milestones you have achieved
Some of our milestones include two International Awards. In June 2017, our founder was awarded the Queen’s Young Leader Award.
This award recognized the incredible work that Africa Matters is doing in changing the narrative. From over 3000 applications, only 60 were chosen, and the work and influence of Africa Matters were highlighted globally.
In September, we were invited to the One Young World Summit in Bogota, Columbia. We have successfully coordinated and hosted three summits, 4 workshops; attended 5 African and Global Conferences and obtained over 10,000 followers on our various social media platforms respectively.
Where can people learn more about Africa Matters Initiative?
To gain a better understanding of AMI, please watch this YouTube video. People can also learn more about Africa Matters from our various social media platforms:
Dumisile Melody Mphamba is a 19-year-old Zimbabwean young lady who will be starting her undergraduate studies at Stanford University, this fall, under a full scholarship.
Growing up in a country with a ‘broken’ health system, she aims to contribute solutions to eradicating the inequity in the healthcare sector. Dumisile hopes to becomes a medical doctor and public health professional, who focuses her career on optimizing access to healthcare, for low-income Zimbabweans.
She describes herself as an artistic scientist. During her high school days, Dumisile co-managed 26 extracurricular clubs including: Public Speaking Captain and Toastmasters Vice President. She is also an active She is a Worship Leader, actress, Youth Music Director and volunteer in her community. Dumisile is the oldest of three girls, and lives with her parents and sisters in Harare, Zimbabwe.
In this interview, she takes us through her incredible story to Stanford…
What has been your motivation for excellence and what impact have you made as a result?
My core belief is that I was created to praise and please the Lord. What better way to honour my Creator and Source than to give Him my best and nothing less?
In this same regard, I take pleasure in developing other people, so that whether they share my spiritual beliefs or not, they can live to get the very best out of life, and share the very best of their gifts with the world.
I do this in many ways, my particular favourite being, as a mentor and Youth Group Leader in my church, as well as the Youth Music Director and Worship Leader. In addition to that, as a Cultural Captain and leader in my school.
I believe that, by striving to maintain excellence as a form of worship, I inspired several of my schoolmates to pursue academic, extracurricular, sporting and other equally important forms of excellence, and thus obtain a sense of fulfillment.
Take us on a walk through your journey to attaining a full scholarship at Stanford University?
I began considering applying to the US for tertiary education when my school Guidance Counsellor suggested that I consider it as an option. Anyone who knows me, knows that at the time (I was 17) I had made a solid plan to complete my GCE A-levels, pass and go straight to medical school, without going through the relatively complicated American path to becoming a medical doctor.
It took a lot of convincing from my Guidance Counsellor and my mentor, Dr Charlene Kembo-Chideme. But, I joined EducationUSA Harare, took the SATs, sought guidance from the EducationUSA advisor and fellow Zimbabweans in the USA (in crafting my application essays), applied, and the rest is history.
I was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, also on very generous scholarships, but Stanford had always been my dream school, and their package was the most generous of the three. So I am very grateful for having such an easy choice to make!
What principles have been fundamental to you and why?
My defining element is my constant motivation to please God, and pursue a close relationship with him. But, this was not always my conviction.
When I was about 14 years old, I experienced a time of loneliness and rejection by friends I had trusted for years, as well as tragedies that led to angry questions: What was the point of living? What was the point of God?
It is then that I began to realize, through prayer, introspection, and a bucket load of tears, that my job was not to understand why things were the way they were. But, what was important was for me to flourish in those circumstances, and please God by doing my personal best, no matter what my surroundings looked like.
While in high school, you balanced having an outstanding grade while managing over twenty-six extracurricular activities. How did you achieve that?
The most important element was my close relationship with God and our often brutally-honest conversations. I also received constant encouragement from my parents, and had a strong support structure of older sisters, particularly my mentor, who affirmed me especially when I needed it.
I also have to mention my artistic outlet. I studied only science subjects at Advanced Level, and so it became increasingly important for me to deliberately let out the artist in me on stage, through public speaking, theatre, music and worship.
What qualities are essential for young Africans?
Resilience is key. One of my favourite quotes is “A river cuts through the rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” – Jim Watkins. As young Africans, we must believe in the unique gifts and ideas we possess.
We must be resilient enough to seek new ways of pursuing our goals if ever we fail, and we must refuse to allow our gift to die without being tapped into. I believe that leadership is the ability to use our gifts to unite people; Towards a vision that benefits followers, and to inspire them to develop their own vision for their lives, so that they may use their gifts to, in turn, benefit the lives of others.
What are your plans for Africa and Zimbabwe in particular in the coming future?
My goal is to become a medical doctor and public health professional, who focuses her career on optimizing access to healthcare for low-income Zimbabweans.
I look forward to collaborating with many like-minded individuals, both in Africa and the world at large, who are also passionate about developing healthcare infrastructure in our part of the world.
During college, I aim to involve myself in service initiatives that can, in one way or the other, enable me to begin to work on developing Africa.
Tell us how you sang your way to Paris in 2014
I first heard of Alliance Francaise de Harare’s annual national contest ‘Sing Your Way to Paris’, when I was 13 years old, and purposed in my heart to win it someday, even though I had never sung in French before, let alone in front of the audience.
I entered the contest when I was 16. With the support of my family, French and Music teachers, and my musical genius of an aunt, Aunty Tammy- I sang and performed ‘Je Lui Dirai’ by Celine Dion, and became the first teenager ever in the country to win the contest! It was a dream come true.
Reading a book or watching a movie, what would be your preference?
That is hard to answer. I tend to watch movies upon recommendation from trusted sources. The same goes with books. It is my own elaborate form of laziness. And I am proud of it!
What an inspiring young lady! How has the belief in excellence helped you achieve your goals?
Ntombizodwa Sibanda and Bonnie Chimanikire recently hosted a successful high tea event in Harare, Zimbabwe. The High Tea concept is an initiative that was co-founded by the two ladies, Ntombizodwa and Bonnie. They wanted the event to be an afternoon of encouragement, pampering and positive interaction for women.
SLA contributor Makhosazana Ndlovu recently caught up with Ntombizodwa to learn more about the concept and discover their secrets to running a successful event.
What inspired you to start The High Tea initiative?
My partner, Bonnie and I had successfully run a campaign to assist displaced xenophobic victims in the Germiston area. After the campaign, Bonnie approached me about her vision to host a women-focused event.
We agreed that we wanted the event not only to be informative, but to be an afternoon of encouragement, pampering, and positive interaction of women, which is contrary to the general negative narrative of the interaction of women.
Empowerment, fashion, food. Why these themes specifically?
Our ultimate goal is to holistically fulfil our guests. Our guests are encouraged to dress to the nines, we ensure that our menu and refreshments are fit for the palate of queens and carefully select our speakers with a simple mandate to encourage our women. No woman can ever get enough of these themes.
How did you deal with the challenges that you faced when you first introduced the initiative?
Determination: We knew what we wanted. We knew what had to be done to achieve it, and we set out to do it. Most importantly, we were prepared for the worst; which was very low numbers. But we knew that if we succeeded in executing the first one, we would have the most effective publicity (word of mouth) going forward.
Support structure: We had friends and family who stood by us and gave us the necessary support and advice we needed.
Prayer: Some situations were beyond us. Those are the ones we left to God to handle. And He pulled through for us… a lot of fasting and prayer comes into every edition of The High Tea.
Who do you work with to ensure that The High Tea events are a success?
When we started, it was just Bonnie and I. However, as the vision grew, so did the need to incorporate much-needed help. The core team has grown by an extra four members, namely, Pam, Zihlobo, Gugu, and Sidumisile.
We also have a large network of successful women who are originally from Zimbabwe but are resident in South Africa. They are affectionately known as the SQUAD and we rely on them for valuable advice and direction. I could never forget our friends and families who have all played various roles in assisting us to meet our goals.
What impact does the events have on African women?
The event is not limited to Zimbabwean women but attracts women from various African countries. This is also evident in our diverse speakers. We aim to encourage inter-dependence amongst African women. Our struggles are, after all similar, regardless of our different countries. This means that viable solutions can be found in positive interaction with each other.
Elsie Mutsaka is an up and coming PR dynamo, social media marketer and blogger from Zimbabwe based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Her accessible fashion aesthetic is inspiring women from all walks of life to be confident in their style.
After discovering her personal style, Elsie started getting questions about her outfits and where she gets pieces. That encouraged her to start blogging and share her style with a wider range of people.
SLA contributor Anelisa Nokoyo had a chat with Elzie to find out what inspired her quirky fashion blog, and what she has in store for the future.
When did you start blogging?
Initially, I started blogging last year, April 2016 under the name differentlyconfident. Then this year I changed my domain name to my full name. I realised that my brand and I are one and so my blog should be the same.
What would you like to achieve with your blog?
I have always wanted to share my style with people and through this blog, I manage to do just that. Most importantly I wanted to bring about the idea that style is not about the price tag or label, and that you can look perfectly chic while still living within your means.
Growing up I had times when I was not as confident about how I looked, but as I grew older I became comfortable in my skin, looks, and style. That’s the exact same message that I would like the people that read my site to get each time they read my posts.
It’s basically a site for any type of woman to visit and get outfit inspiration, love the skin they’re in and know that they can create their own unique style. Also, while people shy away from thrifting, I find that it’s one of my favourite things to do with my sister each holiday, as you get stuff that nobody else has.
So I always mention where I get my clothes for each blog post and I’m not embarrassed that I shopped a SALE or that I thrifted. Ultimately, I intend on building a brand that inspires and speaks to women who fully know and understand themselves or who at least aspire to.
What do you enjoy most about blogging, and what are some of the challenges?
I really enjoy putting outfits together and reading comments from people who read the posts. Most of the time I really appreciate it when people give their honest opinion and usually, my family and friends do the most.
I think one of the challenges is when the writer’s block strikes. Sometimes you really have good photography but you are just not satisfied with your writing, but when I eventually get it together it’s amazing because I get to think out loud.
What are some of the wardrobe essentials that you think each woman should have?
Well, personally I believe everyone should have a really good quality blazer, a good pair of denim jeans, black pair of heels, very good quality handbag and at least one vintage or pop of colour item.
I could go on and on, but those are my faves, just that I own more than one of each. Whenever I am asked to, I style people or help them create their dream wardrobe so the essentials differ sometimes depending on your style.
Besides fashion, what else do you write about?
Besides fashion sometimes I write about things that matter to me like issues that women face, but I do this as a contributor for other platforms. Other times on my blog I share about my beauty routines which are quite simple.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learnt since delving into the world of blogging?
I have learnt that you must do what sets your heart on fire, sometimes trends in the blogging sphere are awesome but they are not always your thing. It’s okay to do what you feel comfortable in.
Also, there are so many bloggers out there and everyone has a niche and something unique they bring to the table, so it’s good to celebrate others. I enjoy commenting on other people’s blogs. It does not take anything away from me when their work and skill grows, and if you appreciate other people’s work oftentimes the favour is returned.
What else do you do besides blogging and how do you blend the two occupations together?
So, besides this blog, I do public relations, which means I spend my days working as a social media marketer for an online store and managing other platforms for clients. Because the social media thing is my 9-5, I usually blog in the evenings and do shoots on Saturday mornings.
It’s all about organising your very little time well. The two also blend well because it’s all use of the digital media, so sometimes I reply to comments on the job.
bcct You need to use what you have and what’s around you
Give us your top three tips that you’d give to anyone who wants to start blogging…
Once you figure that you want to blog GO FOR IT! I mean just do it. Secondly, just trust the process and even if like 3 people read your blog that’s okay, it takes time to grow an audience. When I first started blogging a close friend of mine offered to take pictures of me, she had no camera experience whatsoever but as my blogging got better, her photography did as well and because she believed in me so much I gained confidence.
What I am trying to say is you need to use what you have and what’saround you. I did not have a professional photographer but I had a friend and that helped me grow, and here I am.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
Catch Elsie on her blog, elsiemutsaka.com to get some on-point fashion tips and lifestyle news.
Nyaradzo Mavindidze, the Managing Consultant of Avodah Consultants, is a Holistic Leadership Expert who is passionate about developing the ‘uncommon sense’ in leaders, thus going beyond the five senses. A psychologist by profession, she enables leaders to draw on their inner and outer natural resources thus shifting personal paradigms and beliefs leading to transformed organisations.
Over the years, she has developed herself as a brand to reckon with in dissemination of lasting solutions to performance deficiencies in individuals, leaders, and organisations. She says, “Every one of us already has power, it’s just a matter of peeling away the stuff that shadows who you are and what you are capable of…”
As a coach, Nyaradzo creates an environment where you and your dreams, your challenges, fears, and victories are the focus. A time and space to be you, to find out who you are and what you want, and to then go out and create that despite external environmental challenges.
Nyaradzo is a high-energy speaker with boundless energy and wit who is able to combine inspiration with insight. Her charismatic style and ability to engage emotionally with audiences have made her a sought-after keynote speaker delivering proven solutions on topical issues for corporations. Her mission as a speaker, coach, and trainer is to empower organisations to achieve sustainable success through holistic development and cognitive reconditioning.
She has published a motivational journal, ‘Motivation for Success: Morsels in the Desert’ and is the co-author of; ‘Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Career Strategies for Women’. Her motivational articles are published in local magazines and tabloids. She currently writes a motivational column ‘Motivation for Success’ published in The Business Herald every Monday. She makes guest appearances on local radio and has been interviewed on a MNET TV program. In 2015 she was on the list of Young Zimbabweans to Watch’ and is the 2016- ZIWA Motivational Speaker of the Year.
Nyaradzo is also the founder of QueenMakers Trust whose mission is to empower female leaders through training, mentoring and coaching, thus enabling them to contribute into the mainstream economy.
How was Avodah formed?
Avodah was formed through a series of events. Having been in the NGO and corporate sector for close to a decade, with Viva Network Dandy Zimbabwe and Standard Chartered, I took a career sabbatical and went to Uni in the middle of a third pregnancy. Halfway through my degree, I started a clothing business: Sheba’s Closet, in an upmarket area in Harare. I travelled to Asia and Europe at least once a month to purchase clothing for the two shops that I had acquired.
After graduating in 2008 Avodah was formed with the realisation that it was virtually impossible to get back into formal employment due to the state of the economy. I decided to run the 2 businesses, my love for fashion and my natural speaking talent. It focuses on soft skills training, human capital development, recruitment, and coaching.
Avodah is a Hebrew word meaning work is a form of worship. I believe that as you are working, you are exercising and using your gifts that were placed inside of you, thereby giving glory and worshiping the giver of that gift.
In 2012, I went through a life altering experience that got me thinking about my purpose, passion, and desires. This led to me closing Sheba’s Closet to focus on something that left a legacy for my children. I knew that I was not going to be able to develop it to the level Edgars and Truworths (regional clothing stores), so I decided to focus solely on Avodah.
I started Avodah during the 2008 recession period. I was going in the opposite direction of the economy. The only reason I have managed to survive is my work ethic and excellence.
I believe when you function in your area of passion and strength you have more staying power.
Tell us a bit about QueenMakers?
QueenMakers is a passion. I am passionate about women’s empowerment. I started QueenMakers to assist women developing themselves to function at their maximum potential. Culture, religion, politics, economies, and societies have made women a secondary species and made them feel like they don’t deserve a seat at the decision-making and power table.
QueenMakers is an organisation where women come together, get trained, motivated, coached and inspired to reach within themselves and polish their potential. We network, encourage, expose women to opportunities that are around them, help them maximise their potential and occupy centre stage.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced as a black African woman?
Most of my challenges as a black African woman have been self-belief and going past that little voice inside your head that says it’s impossible.
I have had to work hard to develop my confidence to put myself out there.
What more can government do to support entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe
I believe women have not even begun to utilise the ‘little’ that has been put on the table for them. Before we can ask for more we need to sweat what has been offered thus far. There is more that they can do but it’s also more of what we as women can do.
For example, there has not been that many women in politics. Our generation aspires and desires, complains and bickers but no one has really stepped up, very few women take up such roles.