Hellen Nyasha Chipidza

Focus and discipline propel two young Harare ladies into business

HARARE lady Hellen Chipidza turned 24 this month and still has many more years of youthfulness ahead of her, but she is one focused youth who unfortunately has to scale odds staked against her to grow the beauty and skincare business she launched just before graduation last year.

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After having graduated in November last year, the Mabelreign lady quickly found herself neck-deep in an economy that is very brutal to youths: there were just no jobs around. In fact, there has been no jobs for graduating youths for donkey years. Even a Government-owned organisation that had offered her attachment as a university student was not able to offer her a job.

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Hellen could have chosen to be one of the lousy followers of social media dramas or even be a social media drama queen herself if she wanted, but she chose focus and productivity over everything else – a tough and unpopular choice in a society where Harare’s “mbingas” (filthy rich folks) are worshipped like gods.

HOURLYHITS, a website dedicated towards productivity, sat down with Hellen to hear her story.

Who is Hellen?

Hellen Nyasha Chipidza was born on the 4th of July 1997 and raised in Mabelreign, Harare, and she still resides there. The 11th born in a family of 14 – seven boys and seven girls – Hellen still stays with her mom and some of her siblings.

Hers is a big family even by old-school Zimbabwean standards, and Hellen is very much alive to the immense work her mom put in to raise all of them the good way she did, a tough economy notwithstanding..

“My mom had a huge job raising us and taking care of us after our dad died when I was Grade 7,” Hellen says. “All the learning I did up to where I am now, I watched as mom paid for all that out of her own hard work. I also grew up in an environment that shaped me to be a child of God and to be a person of character,” the Bindura University for Science Education (BUSE) graduate says.

And character she has. The immediate community around her played a role in grooming her, as did her own family.

“My community kept a close tab on me as I was growing up by always urging me to be like my father,” says Hellen. She explains that her father, now late, was a person of good stinging and exceptional character.

“I attended local schools and did Form 1 to 6 at Roosevelt Girls High. Thereafter, I enrolled for a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Technology at the BUSE. I am a child of God and have firm faith in Christian values and believe in hard work to earn an honest living.”

But even the best Science student can’t get a job!

When there are no jobs, even those who believe in hard work struggle to keep up their faith. After Hellen graduated last year, the jobs were not forthcoming and she decided to do something about it.

Hellen had previously been attached to a State-owned petroleum organisation for college attachment. Moreover, she graduated as the best female student from her class, a feat she says was made possible by a combination of her own hard work, family support and her solid belief in God.

But Hellen’s feat also exposes the deep level of rot the economy is in: the best female student from a male-dominated class at a State-owned university fails to get a job at a State-owned firm she had previously interned at. The Zimbabwe Government often misses not an opportunity to say it believes in the girl child in particular and youths in general and wants to prepare the best life for them.

Hellen took no time waiting for anyone and decided to eat her own path. As a chemical technologist, Hellen was not going to sit on her laurels and on her skills forever. Science and life trained her to use her skills to solve challenges. She briefly taught Chemistry at a high school after graduation, but decided to go into business to put her skills to the full test.

Mudiwa/My Love/My Dear

Working with her friend and using only the few savings they had in their hands, the two young ladies formed a company that manufactures and sells skincare products.

“We launched Mudiwa Skincare products on late last year, 2020, and sold our very first bottles upon launch. I co-founded the business with my friend and fellow chemical technologist, Rutendo Barara. We are friends from university and had learned together how to extract beneficial products from chemicals and materials around us.

“We also were having problems with buying products on the market, as we found that what was available on the market was entirely suited to the local climate and environment,” said Hellen.

“We called our brand Mudiwa, which is a Shona word for “My Love”. It is also a Swahili word for “My Dear”. By coining that name, we were trying to communicate to our clients and everyone else to have self-love and to care about their skins. Our skincare is a 100% Zimbabwean product made using environmentally-friendly methods and local resources. Our product labels show in detail our active ingredients: we use water, shea butter, Aloe Vera and other local available resources.”

Focus, discipline and voting: What a Zimbabwean youth needs

Being a practising Child of God, Hellen uses the Bible the same way you and I would cling to our compass if lost in the Amazon. She quotes Matthew 16 verse 26 saying: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

She also, for good measure, quotes internationally-acclaimed Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who regularly chastises the youths of today to have focus on things that matter for their future than waste precious time chasing after social media scandals and dramas.

“Discipline and consistency, those are two great qualities today’s youths must chase after. And youths must vote,” she emphasizes. “Most people of my age are not investing in their growth and future, choosing instead to focus on social media drama kings and drama queens.

“As Hopewell (Chin’ono) always says, the youths must stay focused on things that determine their future and ignore all the noise and distractions on social media,” says Hellen.

She is a registered voter and is alive to the negative impact that not voting has on the nation. She has voted in the 2018 elections and will vote in 2023 and in any by-elections in her constituency, she declares. Hellen encourages all youths to vote, saying not voting is actually as good as perpetuating the same problems youths face today.

“I am a child of God and I believe in hard work to earn an honest living.” – Hellen Chipidza

“Your vote is your right. Use it and don’t just sit around and expect others to do it for you. Not voting is what has made the situation what it is. Stop listening to conspiracies that voting does not work. It does work. Youths must register now so they can vote.

“Everything comes through hard work, but I urge fellow youths especially the ladies to not sell their bodies for anything,” Hellen says. “It’s not worth it. If it’s money that you want, work for it, It’s all about putting in a shift for the dollar you earn.

“There are many people on social media driving nice cars, wearing nice clothes and living the good life. It’s good for us youths to admire that life, but we have to know that it’s worked for.”

Running a business under lockdown

“Mudiwa speaks to the person out there, our beloved clients: love your skin because that’s what you wear daily. You might change clothes now and again but the skin stays on you; it is a part of you. You have to love it and nourish it with Mudiwa Skincare products. That is the idea behind the product Mudiwa Skincare.

“I handle the operational side of business, while Rutendo handles the marketing.”

Hellen says since their business was launched during a national lockdown, it is yet to realise its full potential. “In business, marketing is always work in progress. We run ads online including on Instagram and Facebook, but our target is to have retailers stock our products.”

She added that as the business founders, they are prepared for any questions clients may ask as they are trained chemical technologists with full knowledge to assist with any queries.

“The main ingredients in our products, apart from water and butter, is love. Your skin represents you, We aspire to help you take good care of your skin. Regardless of pimples and dark spots, as long one has self-love, they will glow to the outer world.”

Hellen implores policy makers to have youths like herself and many others on mind when crafting policy.

“There are so many obstacles when one wants to register a business. Government must review company registration procedures and make them friendly especially to local start-ups and to youths. The issue of funding is also critical – we had to start with our own personal savings and that was not easy considering that we are still young and hadn’t gotten any real serious jobs in our lives.”

Hellen and Rutendo started Mudiwa Skincare with only US$150. She appeals to authorities to ensure that youths with ideas can put them into practice and produce, saying the long-term benefit to a country which consumes its own products was cutting on the import bill.

“We are trying to create employment for the future generations, but first we have to develop this business and grow to end up owning our own factory. If we grow to that level, we will be able to employ more people and even offer places for students on attachment. But without the help from Government and from leaders in various economic spheres, our growth will not be easy.”

Hellen says in business, capital is as important as character. “If one gets the capital but lack the character, they will soon squander all the capital and get broke real fast. So, at the end of the day, it is character that matters.”

Seeing beyond the borders

Mudiwa Skincare operates from Speke Avenue in Harare, but Hellen and Nyasha already have their eyes set on the bigger picture. The young business ladies want to expand their networks so they can distribute their product countrywide and even beyond the borders.

They are looking for individuals, organisations and firms that can partner them in distributing the product to the towns and all other places in Zimbabwe.

“We are still very much growing, but we have determination to spread our products all over. We also are seeking partnerships from people abroad to help us push our product to those markets.” ■

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