Name: Marylene Makosa
Company name: Heritage Aluminium
Business Location: Stall G8 Eastgate Market, Cnr. Robert Mugabe Avenue/Wynne Street, Harare
Products /Services: Aluminium Hardware, Security Retractable Doors & Windows
Years in Business: 5 years
Number of employees: 2
Phone number: +263773403284 or +263772890540
Tell us your name, and your business name
I am Marylene Makosa, cofounder of Heritage Aluminium.
What led you to start your business?
I was retrenched in June 2015, prior to the Labour Amendment Act of 2015. I was one of the highest paid employees at a Construction Retailer, so the Law was in their favour especially considering I had been with them for over six years.
Being jobless was one problem, but the second and major was that I was 3 months pregnant at the time. So applying for another job elsewhere was out of the equation. That left me with no choice but to start my own. My children were and still are my inspiration. I’ve been blessed with 3 beautiful girls and my dream is to leave a legacy and a great inheritance for each of them. I want them to grow up to be powerful, independent ladies whose mother is living proof of “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Thus the name Heritage Aluminium.
Wow that’s a powerful starting point. Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
It started off as the only means to survival. But after a couple of months, it bore so much fruit I never looked back. Initially I thought I’d just run this business until I gave birth to my unborn child, thereafter start go back to employment. But 2-3 months in the game, I started drafting a logo, came up with a vision and a mission, and that sealed it. Business started picking up, earnings increased and the lessons learnt were priceless. Yes I was duped once or twice, I fumbled a couple of times and had to rebuild, but all that only made me stronger. I started appreciating my workers, their loyalty and effort. Some life-changing experiences which I would never have gained as an employee.
That’s awesome. Seems you had a pretty determined start. Most entrepreneurs always struggle to start and most challenging is capital. It would be interesting to know how you raised the startup capital for the business?
I sold my car.
You don’t say! Please walk me through your thought process leading to that decision. Which is, arguably, not an easy decision?
Most entrepreneurs’ weakness is looking outside for assistance to start. No, look within, start with your own money, start however small, you’ve got the means….well at least the little it takes. Why allow someone else to get the credit for setting YOUR vision ablaze? After all, who would want to invest in a business that YOU the vision-bearer cannot sacrifice for and commit to?
I like that last part. Could it relate to the saying that you have to put your skin where your mouth is.
Yes, now I understand it better. So, now that you’re up and running, which suggests you’re getting customers to keep you sustainable, how do you market your business? How do you find customers? What do you do to make sure they become repeat customers?
Firstly, we have a website, www.heritagealuminium.co.zw whose extensive reach is limitless.
Secondly, customer-care which is critical in this day and age. Yes current life is tough in Zimbabwe, but there are people with money out there. And that market is willing to spend on a great service/product. As I wake up every morning, my goal is to consistently improve on delivery and nothing is more fulfilling than a happy customer.
Hiccups may arise in the day-to-day running of the business, some beyond our control but accountability and timeous communication maintain relations and create customer loyalty.
Thereafter, those same repeat customers actually become free marketing agents and start referring their friends and relatives to you.
One major nugget for me as a Co-Founder is to be involved and on the ground to uphold the Company Culture. I don’t leave Operations, Administration and Customer Service to chance.
Yes being involved is key, I wish our modern day farmers and their heavy reliance of cellphone activities can learn a thing or two from you and your industry. So, in all this, what are some of the challenges you face in your business? How do you overcome these challenges?
Mostly the unavailability of our products locally, thereby requiring scarce forex to import.
Then again, the lawlessness of imports has failed to protect us as registered Companies. Most of our customers can easily import construction products from South Africa or China, so this poses a huge threat to our pricing and sustenance.
I see. Kindly explain what you mean by the lawlessness of imports. And if you could highlight how you might want the market structured in a way beneficial to startup businesses in relation to exports and imports.
ZIMRA to simply tighten the bolts on imports of building material and limit such to entrepreneurs registered with organizations such as CIFOZ whose main focus is to protect construction contractors.
Generally we have mistaken indigenization to mediocre, incompetent, unregistered entrepreneurship. Indigenization is governed by laws and policies which if we all adhered to, plus exclude corruption, we could build a better nation and our Companies be recognized internationally.
Yeah so true. Seems as a nation we believe imported is better/high quality. But in the process we lose out on the potentials of supporting local producers.
Now, we would appreciate that the economy hasn’t been performing very well. I wonder how has the instability of the Zimbabwean dollar value affected your business?
Largely negative. Building is mostly a long term project which takes a lot of planning and budgeting. Most big companies and prospective clients have their revenue in ZWL and its depreciation negatively impact their goals and plans particularly with regards to expansion and renovations.
But I suppose Zimbabweans have grown that thick skin of working round hurdles and/or crossing the bridge when we come to it 😃….any of those two options leaves us with the few customers to keep us alive.
Yes, as Zimbabweans, I sincerely think one of our defining factor is the survivor instinct we all seem to possess. Speaking of which, we are faced with the corona virus and its regulations. It will be interesting to find out how has the Coronavirus and lockdowns affected your business?
Well, to start of with our offices at Eastgate Market have been closed since 30 March 2020 to date. So we’re losing sales from walk-ins. But since we had a database of our customers, we keep in touch with them via whatsapp and bulk sms’. So our thrust is to get orders on whatsapp, email and over the phone, then deliver product at the client’s doorstep. Ultimately we’re channeling rent money to fuel, so it’s a ‘win some, lose some’ scenario. But generally we’re happy with the operations.
Currently getting around is more difficult with the numerous roadblocks, but hey, it’s understandable considering the growing number of cases.
Then again we have other extra expenses of sanitizers, masks and handwash but they’re all worth it…for the safety of our stakeholders.
Good to know you have managed to stay afoot in these times. I am eager to know what lessons you have learnt thus far with regards to business uncertainties and your company’s ability to face such sudden changes.
- Acknowledge God every morning, always make Him the Maker and Perfecter of your faith.
- Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Be courageous as an entrepreneur.
- Serve every customer well enough for them to return, regardless of a crisis.
- Autonomy is key. Prompt decision making is critical to keep the business afloat.
- Proper communication with client is fundamental, keeping them updated on orders to eliminate any suspicions.
- Get enough rest/sleep so that you wake up fresh to face each new day with a clear mind and conscience.
- EQ is equally important as IQ. Be empathetic, and stay humble.
Yeah, there is some deep wisdom in your lessons, thank you. So tell us, what role does Technology play in your business?
Digital Marketing, taking measurements for window and door openings, calculating Bill Of Quantities and Quotations as well as Accounting.
In the near future we’re hoping to start up a workshop that assembles aluminium and frameless doors and windows using Artificial Intelligence and/or Robotics. These will have better precision and ultimately enable delivery of world-class product.
That’s great. I see you are really exploiting opportunities presented by technology. So, Tell us, where do you see your business in the next five years?
Owning an aluminium workshop with top notch machinery, causing disruption of construction finishes in Zimbabwe. Also by then we should be venturing into proper Real Estate, preferably property flips, i.e. buying dilapidated properties, renovating them then reselling.
Aww you also want to venture into real estate! That would be an interesting path to take I presume. Is real estate something you have had interests in as well or your preference is purely business?
I’ve recently started gaining interest. But I’ve always had an eye for good things, good life.
I see. So, what advice would you want to give to Zimbabweans who want to venture into the same line of business as yours?
Acquire the technical knowledge first before diving into it. Otherwise you end up wasting all your capital on the wrong resources.
I guess the idea of Kukiya kiya make it seem as if Knowledge is secondary. But yes, knowledge should come first. So, what products or services do you offer and how can our readers get in touch with you if they want your services?
We are mainly a retailer of accessories for aluminum doors, windows, shower cubicles, shop fronts, curtain-walls and balustrades. We also supply and fit security retractatable doors and windows.
Customers can call or whatsapp us on +263 773 403 284 or +263 772 890 550. They can also view our product line on our website page www.heritagealuminium.co.zw .Physical Address: Stall G8 Eastgate Market, Cnr. Robert Mugabe Avenue/Wynne Street, Harare
Wow, I see you have a good range products. I like it. Otherwise, what advice would you give to other Zimbabweans who are complaining because of these tough economic conditions?
Quit complaining, identify your gift, create a Vision and run with it. Words shape you, words have power….as the Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
Indeed, because of failing to tame one’s tongue one usually finds him/herself in undesirable situations. Those are some wise words you shared with us thus making a wonderful end to this interview. I should say I have learnt quite a lot from this discussion and feel very much inspired. Thank you.