From school teacher to entrepreneur

HARARE - She was a school teacher who loved teaching and the children she taught, but the desire to empower others financially saw Maglin Chiwuta dumping the noble profession for a tile manufacturing venture.

Raised amidst grinding poverty in a family teeming with siblings, step brothers and sisters, Chiwuta eschewed deprivation.

In 1995, without any money but armed with a good business idea, she co-founded Zicha-Tiles with her husband Zabron Chakanaka to service the country’s fast growing demand for high quality roofing tiles and ridges.

When the company first started out they had a very small machine — the Parry Instamac –— which produced only 140 tiles per day. The demand for tiles in the community grew steadily, prompting Chiwuta to make some big decisions about what was next for her and for the future of the company.

“I left my teaching job in Zimbabwe in the year 2000, a job which I held for 15 years, and — together with my husband — went to England to work and raise money for my tile manufacturing business. I needed to buy a bigger, more efficient tile production machine, larger moulds and larger pallets to keep up with the industry’s growing demand,” she said in an interview at her premises in Hillside.

Despite doing menial work in England, Chiwuta did not forget her goal and continued to scout for different methods and efficient machines for roofing tiles production.

“I ended up working in England for several years, eventually paying off and bringing my new machine home to Zimbabwe — excited to continue work on my passion project of producing roof tiles,” she said.

Zicha-Tiles resumed operations in October 2011 and today the company manufactures Double Roman tiles and roof ridges.

“When I came back to Zimbabwe I didn’t have enough working capital and had to sell one of our properties to kick-start operations. As a company, we’ve continued to go from strength to strength — now producing over 5 000 concrete roof tiles a week and employ seven permanent workers.

“We may also have temporary workers depending on the workload. So far our market is comprised mainly of individuals, we don’t have big contracts but we yearn to do so,” she added.

The local tile producing firm currently has over 50 000 tiles in stock and is confident that a rise in economic growth will translate the stock into sales as more people begin constructing new houses.

Zimbabwe currently has a 1,25 million housing backlog, with Harare alone requiring about half a million units.

The demand for housing has of late outstripped supply compounded by city to city migration especially to major cities such as the capital city, as individuals hunt for employment.

Cognisant of the housing backlog, government has collaborated with various stakeholders including public sector entities, financial sector, and private individuals through self-financing schemes as well as housing cooperatives.

In line with this, government is mobilising $182 million for housing projects, according to the 2018 National Budget.

Economic analysts say housing provision is an engine for economic growth and serves as a barometer for economic growth.

They indicated that when this sector is viable, it creates employment for those in the construction industry and promotes small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) who are the main suppliers of building materials.

In most countries, housing backlog is viewed as an investment opportunity and the houses yet to be constructed are a clear demonstration of an opportunity untapped.

“My plan is to look for industrial space in the next three to four years. The company is now in a position to increase time of production from the current five to six per week, and can increase our moulds from the current 1 000 to 5 000,” Chiwuta said adding that Zicha-Tiles requires over $500 000 to expand operations.

— The Financial Gazette

Comments (1)

keep up the good work , don't compromise on quality , your moto must be Quality! Quality!

Shumba - 22 May 2018

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